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New York State Police Set To Crack Down On License Plate Alterations, Covers

YAPHANK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- No doubt you've seen them on the road – license plate covers that hide the numbers.

As CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported Thursday, New York State and Suffolk County police said they are cracking down on the illegal activity.

Peruse any parking lot in Suffolk County, and you will likely find a bumper crop of license plate violations. They include missing plates, characters painted over or scratched off, and others hidden by tinted plastic sheets.

One driver didn't hide the reason.

"You can't do anything, you can't go anywhere –- and everything, you've have to pay a fine for," the man said.

Dark, tinted or curved covers make the license plates impossible to read. And yet, they are sold overtly in stores and online – marketed as the antidote to red-light cameras.

But they make it impossible for the public to identify a hit-and-run or reckless driver.

"People are trying to get away with it, sure" a driver said. "I see that. That's not right."

Crashes caused by cars with license plates that cannot be read drive up insurance rates, police said.

"Chances are that car is not registered and not insured, so now, you, as the proper citizen, you now take the hit of that and your insurance premiums go up," said New York State police Major David Candelaria.

It is prompting New York State and Suffolk County police to launch a crackdown. Come April 1, police for two weeks will be on the prowl for license plate alterations.

They said they are protecting their investment in license plate readers, which are needed to fight gangs and other crime.

"All that technology and automation will be defeated by people who intentionally alter or cover their New York State license plates," said Suffolk County Police Department Chief Stuart Cameron.

Violators could face misdemeanors, and even felonies. Police say there are no excuses.

CBS2's Gusoff asked one driver why he didn't have a license plate.

"To be honest, laziness. I have it in the back," he said. "By law, you only need one."

That is not true. Two license plates are required.

"New York State Law bans anything placed over a vehicle's license plate or including only having once license plate," Candelaria said.

Police said covers that obscure license plates have no legitimate purpose other than to violate the law, evade law enforcement, and leave others on the road with no way of identifying reckless drivers.

New York State, New Jersey and Connecticut all require front and back license plates. Nineteen states require only one.

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