The New York City Sheriff’s Office seized 53 vehicles for allegedly displaying illegal or bogus paper license plates originating from states as far as Texas during an overnight raid in Queens. The seizure is part of a broad investigation into the proliferation of paper license plates during the pandemic.
The hours-long seizure began midnight on Friday in parts of Queens, with the majority of the crackdown happening in the borough’s eastern neighborhoods, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Deputies relied on a license plate reader to identify paper license plates that were counterfeit, considered legal but expired, or not legally assigned to the vehicle. Valid paper license plates are issued by a motor vehicles agency and are considered legitimate for 30 days.
The use of illegal paper plates makes it difficult for authorities to find the true owner of a vehicle, making it impossible to issue tickets for illegal parking, running red lights, or speeding, according to Sheriff Joseph Fucito. He added that once they identify the true owners of the vehicles, they will be hit with any summonses that have gone unanswered.
The seizure is part of “Operation: CON-temporary,” which has been investigating the use of fake paper plates across New York City in recent months. The first raid happened in Brooklyn in July, where deputies seized 43 vehicles. The other happened in August in the Bronx, where 76 cars were confiscated. There were also smaller seizures folded into the operation, which included tractor trailers, bringing the total number of vehicles seized at 238. Twenty-one people have since been arrested as part of the investigation, and charged with various misdemeanors.
The Sheriff’s Office has now requested help from multi-state agencies to identify vehicle owners since some of the illegal plates originated from New Jersey, Philadelphia, or Texas. The sheriff’s office aims to identify 1,000 vehicles to help establish a pattern on why this could be happening.
Queens Councilmember Robert Holden requested deputies look into the presence of paper license plates in his district, saying fake or obscured plates “allow scofflaws to get away with reckless, dangerous driving, as well as to commit other crimes.”
More crackdowns are expected in the coming months.