The NYPD has started to yank off the streets unmarked cars that cannot be registered because the department owes the city more than $1 million in unpaid tickets, DNAinfo.com has learned.
Scofflaw NYPD vehicles with expired registrations are now being taken out of service when they are brought in for routine maintenance and identified by mechanics as having three or more outstanding summonses with the Department of Motor Vehicles.
In the past week, NYPD detectives who dropped off their unmarked cars for scheduled services such as a simple oil change were later stunned when told the cars had no registration.
The mothballing of the scofflaw NYPD fleet follows a report by “On The Inside” of a bizarre tug-of-war between the Police Department and the city’s Department of Finance over thousands of unpaid tickets issued to cops for illegal parking and running red lights.
“On The Inside” revealed that roughly 200 undercover NYPD cars were on the road without proper DMV registration because of the $1 million in unpaid tickets – and the number was mounting every week.
Now that the issue is public, the department isn't letting unregistered vehicles leave the Fleet Services Division maintenance shops.
“Investigators were left wondering what they were supposed to do when they called and were told they can forget about getting their cars," a source said. “They dropped their car off in the morning, and then they can’t get them in the afternoon."
Another police official said, “This is the result of a stupid idea that is getting stupider.”
That source was referring to a decision Mayor Michael Bloomberg made in 2008 to crack down on municipal employees who were abusing official parking placards in congested Manhattan and around courthouses and government buildings citywide.
At the time, City Hall determined the city had doled out an astonishing 150,000 placards to 68 government agencies and the Department of Education. The mayor ordered that number slashed by at least 20 percent.
He also demanded the city root out abusers who were parking at bus stops, fire hydrants and crosswalks which, of course, included the police, who were major offenders.
Since then, cops have been fuming.
First, they were told that they would be personally responsible for any summons that could not be justified or was received while they were responding to an emergency.
Then Internal Affairs set up a special squad to catch wrongdoers.
And, worse still, some detectives responded to crime scenes or escorted murder witnesses to testify at court, then went looking for their cars – only to find that they had been towed.
“This is unbelievable,” one bewildered police official observed.
The NYPD and the Department of Finance did not immediately comment.
The NYPD in recent weeks has made overtures to the Department of Finance that they were trying to get their paperwork in order to fight the tickets, but were rebuffed by finance officials who said violators only have a 30 day window to contest a summons.
In the NYPD’s case, many of the summonses are several years old.
Meanwhile, the mayor’s crackdown continues.
"On The Inside" reported that even the unmarked NYPD car that is used to chauffeur Sen. Charles Schumer when he is in the city was recently towed. Although Schumer was in Washington at the time, the detective who drives him was on other official business, parked illegally with an NYPD placard in the window.
He had to hoof it to the pound and pay $185 out of his own pocket to get his car back.