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New York City loses $100 million yearly to drivers with obscured license plates, speed camera audit finds

New York City loses $100 million yearly to drivers with obscured license plates
New York City loses $100 million yearly to drivers with obscured license plates 02:06

NEW YORK -- Obscured license plates are costing New York City $100 million per year, CBS New York learned after being given an exclusive first look at an audit by the city comptroller's office

New York City's many speeding cameras catch cars whizzing by, but drivers with fake or obscured plates can avoid getting ticketed. 

The dangerous and growing trend cheats the city out of big bucks from those tickets, according to Comptroller Brad Lander. 

"Drivers who are obscuring their plates or using ghost plates are speeding without accountability and cheating New York City out of $100 million a year," said Lander. 

Some drivers use covers that hide their license plate from the cameras. The captured images are rejected up to 40% of the time, mostly due to unreadable plates. 

Drivers told us they've seen what appear to be phony plates online and on the road. 

"I've seen it advertised on social media already," said Sanju Joshi. 

"There's a lot of those," said Elizabeth Aponte. "You don't what car is what car."

The comptroller's audit of speed cameras found the technology is working, overall. 

"That's what the data shows at the places where there are speed cameras. Speeding has gone down something like 90%," said Lander. 

But rooting out fake plates must be a bigger priority for city and state law enforcement. 

"There are some key places, bridges, tunnels, where everybody knows there's cameras and where the folks having these ghost plates are going right through. That's a good place for enforcement," said Lander. "We also need to crack down on the dealers that are installing illegal license plates and the folks who are marketing and selling those plates." 

The audit took a closer look at where the cameras are and if the placement of them is fair. It found no issues there, but plate problems encourage reckless driving and rob taxpayers. 

"We could use that $100 million to make sure that we're funding CUNY and funding our libraries and funding our schools," Lander said. 

With visible crackdowns and harsher penalties for repeat offenders, Lander believes drivers will figure it's not worth it to speed and cheat, and that will save lives. 

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