Hochul and Adams launch task force cracking down on ‘ghost cars’

NEW YORK — City and state authorities have launched a sprawling interagency task force to combat so-called ghost cars carrying missing, modified or counterfeit license plates, Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul said Tuesday.

An initial operation against ghost cars by the interagency task force on Monday netted 73 car seizures and 282 summons and led to eight arrests, according to authorities.

Ghost cars have been a growing problem in the post-COVID years, and the New York City Police Department has at times been accused of not staging a sufficient effort to take them off the streets.

Adams characterized the ghost autos as menaces to city streets. He said some criminals carry several sets of license plates in their vehicles.

“This initiative is a proactive way of catching them before they do something dangerous,” Adams said at a news conference on Randalls Island.

The interagency effort could give officials more tools to fight the challenge — and to reap money lost when the ghost cars pass through tolls undetected.

“Today, the Ghostbusters have arrived,” Hochul said. “We’re going after the ghost vehicles. We’re sick and tired of people taking advantage, and everybody else feels like a sucker, because they’re the ones paying the tolls like law-abiding citizens.”

The far-reaching enforcement action on Monday spanned a battery of agencies — the New York City Police Department, the city Sheriff’s Office, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the State Police, the state Department of Motor Vehicles, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — according to Hochul’s office.

License plate coverings and fake or fraudulent plates led to more than $46 million in lost toll revenue for the MTA in 2022, according to a fare evasion report published by the agency last year.

And in December, 44 cars — linked to nearly $1 million in unpaid tolls and fines — were impounded in a toll enforcement blitz on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, according to officials.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said it logged a 14% overall increase in revenue recovery from toll evaders in 2023 compared with the previous year.

Tuesday’s announcement at Randalls Island represented the first public announcement featuring both the mayor and the governor since Hochul introduced a polarizing plan to send 750 National Guard soldiers into the city subway system.

Adams did not attend the subway announcement, held last Wednesday in Manhattan, and some suggested he might have felt slighted after he asked for more state funding for the city Police Department’s efforts to address subway crime.

The mayor’s office said Adams was at a funeral during the subway announcement.

Adams and Hochul, two moderate Democrats, have generally enjoyed a warm public relationship, a sharp reversal from the era of angst between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Adams claimed Tuesday that the news media has tried to “pull” him and Hochul apart.

“It’s just not going to happen,” Adams told reporters. “This is a partner. She’s in charge of the state. And she has made public safety a part of her overall agenda.”

He added that the governor has shown “creativity” in her approach to public safety.

Hochul echoed Adams’ remarks reinforcing their ties. The governor thanked the mayor for underscoring the “depth and the strength” of their relationship.

“We said at the very outset that the era of the governor of the State of New York and the mayor of the City of New York fighting is officially over,” Hochul said. “Instead, we’re teaming up to fight crime.”