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License plate cover crackdown needed for congestion pricing, NYC councilmember says. See the new technology causing concerns.

New concerns over license plate covers in NYC with congestion pricing looming
New concerns over license plate covers in NYC with congestion pricing looming 02:29

NEW YORK -- With congestion pricing starting in New York City on June 30, police are scrambling to keep up with all the new ways drivers are hiding their license plates.

One illegal plate cover vendor has caught the attention, and the ire, of a New York City Council member and the New York City Police Department.

"Robbing a bank never been easier"

Councilmember Bob Holden recently saw one kind of license plate cover that he hadn't seen before -- an electronic cover that can mask or unmask your plate in less than a second.

The device appears to use technology similar to what's known as smart-glass windows.

"This one is a little frightening because you can turn it on and off with a button, I guess," Holden said.

The people selling the covers online for $100-195 are posting videos on social media of drivers doing donuts or passing NYPD cars while using the device.

One clip is captioned "robbing a bank never been easier."

A screenshot of an Instagram video shows the back of a white BMW. A license plate cover obscures the license plate number. The caption reads "The most advanced plate cover on the market."
An electronic license plate cover can mask or unmask your plate in less than a second. Instagram

After Mayor Eric Adams warned that many drivers covering their plates are also committing more serious crimes, the Instagram account user posted a video of the mayor saying, "We are finding that they are participating in very violent and dangerous crimes. They leave the scenes of criminality. You don't know who they are." The video then cuts to a shot of a vehicle with a license plate cover with the caption, "Good luck catching me bud."

CBS New York reached out to the person selling those plates. He said business is good, but he would not agree to meet for an interview.  

"We really need our laws to catch up"

Holden's office tells CBS New York they've reported the page to police, and the NYPD says they're aware and ready to stop anyone using the devices.

"Law enforcement is so busy doing other things, this is not a priority yet but it has to be," Holden said.

The MTA has been focusing on toll dodgers at the city's bridges and tunnels, and they say they have tech tools to help alert officers to any kind of cover.

With congestion pricing about to kick in, Holden says, "We really need our laws to catch up."

Holden fully expects more unique plate blockers to pop up.

"If somebody's using this device, they should lose their license. That's what our state officials have to come up with. They have to come with a law that will be drastic on this point," Holden said.

Holden adds that he doesn't support congestion pricing, but he also doesn't support people covering up their plates.

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