New Yorkers driving to work through the Midtown Tunnel with obstructed and paper license plates, or those found to owe the city huge money in fines, found themselves trading in their vehicles for the shoelace express on Monday morning after being stopped by the New York City Sheriff’s Office.
The Sheriff’s Office joined the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, along with several other agencies on April 24 to perform a joint checkpoint operation at the Queens Midtown Tunnel in Long Island City, Queens. According to the Sheriff’s Office, members of the department are strategically placed throughout the entrance area with license plate readers, which then allow officers to pull over offending vehicles.
Beginning at 6 a.m., drivers who sped through red lights, bridge-hopped without paying tolls, or had a back catalog of unpaid parking tickets were among those who were flagged down by the long arm of the law just before they could enter the Midtown Tunnel. Here, histories of illegal activity finally caught up with the offending motorists, who had their vehicles immediately seized and impounded.
“What you also see is a number of vehicles that are just not paying the bridge and tunnel tolls, they’re passing red lights, they are speeding—so they’re accumulating. These are the people who are escaping the law and making it more dangerous on the city streets,” NYC Sheriff Anthony Miranda told amNewYork Metro. “So, when they see checkpoints like these it sends a message that everybody has the opportunity to comply with the law and correct the corrected license plates and registrations and fix the things that they’re having. There’s no reason to continue this. But if we see them through here, we’re going to seize their vehicles, and they’re going to be removed from their vehicles.”
Some of the vehicles brought to a swift halt had thousands of dollars in unpaid tickets to their names, but they were not just personal vehicles; those pulled over included work vans and saw all of the occupants left by the side of the I-495 as they watched their wagon driven out of sight while the driver is handed a summons in return.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, these joint operations take place at random dates at tunnels and bridges all across the Big Apple to ensure that drivers don’t know when to expect to be stopped. For Sheriff Miranda, initiatives like these are all about keeping the public safe from those who are potentially driving dangerously and putting others at risk.
“These are the same people who will hit somebody accidentally, and because they don’t have the right plates on the car will try to drive away. So, they take a situation that could be resolved and make it even more dangerous on the city streets,” Sheriff Miranda explained. “So, the warning is this: All the city agencies are working to bring those vehicles to task. We’re going to hold them accountable. So, if you’re driving around in those vehicles thinking that it’s going to continue, now is that opportunity to fix it before you are stopped by some agency in the city and they seize your vehicle and put you on foot.”
The operation ran from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. during which time 7 vehicles were stopped by the sheriff’s office alone—not including those stopped by other agencies on the scene. Six of them were towed for unpaid parking tickets and the other vehicle was stopped for an unpaid Commercial Motor Vehicle Tax (CMVT.) Two moving violations were issued for suspended registration due to unpaid parking tickets.
The money owed to the city exceeded over $67,000.