Crackdown on illegally tinted windows

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Crackdown on illegally tinted windows

Story By: ANTHONY PERROTTA
3/28/2019


SUFFOLK COUNTY—Authorities recently announced the results of an undercover investigation that targeted nearly a dozen state inspection stations that they suspected were passing vehicles with illegally tinted windows. 

Operation Black Glass discovered that two of the 11 stations issued an inspection sticker to an unmarked police vehicle with tinted windows that blocked out 95 percent of light, according to Suffolk County police chief Stuart Cameron. 

Cameron said that when an officer walks up to a vehicle like this, they can’t see what’s happening on the other side of the glass. “Are people stashing drugs under the seat?,” he asked. “Is someone … getting a gun ready to shoot you? Or is there a grandmother and grandfather behind the wheel?” 

The state currently requires inspection stations to fail vehicles with tinted windows that block up to 30 percent of light. Cameron noted that there are slightly different standards when it comes to medicals issues. 

Cameron said he is concerned about the safety of the police officers that work for him. He went on to give the statistic that 144 police officers in the United States were killed in the line of duty in 2018. Fifty-two of them, he added, were killed in firearm-related incidents, a 13 percent increase from the year before. 

“Historically throughout my career, the majority of police officers killed every year are killed in traffic incidents,” Cameron said. “[But] more officers were killed in the line of duty in firearms-related incidents last year than in traffic incidents. That is an extremely disturbing trend.” 

The vehicle inspection mandate was added to the state’s vehicle and traffic laws in 2017 in order to help improve police safety. Before the addition, police were the sole enforcers of the 30 percent tint restriction, which began in 1992. Cameron said police had been pushing, since 2001, to make tinted window readings part of a vehicle’s yearly inspection process.

After the law was implemented, Cameron believed that concerns about tinted windows would be resolved. However, the police chief said he was driving on the expressway last year and noticed what he felt to be a large amount of vehicles with overly tinted windows. “Far more than I would expect to see after this law had been in effect for over two years,” he said. “Why wasn’t this law working as we anticipated it would?”

Cameron then asked his office to compile information on stations that issued the most inspection stickers to vehicles that were later ticketed for tinted windows. 

The two shops that passed the illegally tinted vehicle were Staria Auto in Selden and Baldwin Automotive in East Patchogue. Cameron said his office reported these stations to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, which could take a “range of actions against them,” including anything from a warning to suspending or revoking their ability to grant inspection certifications. 

“I would imagine the actions that they take would, in part, be based upon the history that they have with those particular inspection stations,” the police chief said, adding that he considers this an “officer safety issue.” He also reminded inspection stations that they have an “obligation” to uphold New York State vehicle laws. 

The remaining nine shops, located in Brentwood (PEH Auto Center), Central Islip (Tri State Tires, Suffolk Auto Service, AKA Auto, B & C Auto), Lindenhurst (PetrolWorks), Medford (Fast Lube) and Patchogue (MD Auto, Two Brothers Auto), all complied by refusing to pass the vehicles. 

Cameron said the investigation was conducted between November and January. He told his officers to go about the investigation when it was most convenient, as he didn’t want to take away from other, more pressing investigations. 

“Traffic stops are already inherently dangerous for our officers; tinted windows increase that danger,” Suffolk County executive Steve Bellone wrote in a statement last week. “We cannot sacrifice officer safety for what amounts to a cosmetic detail on a vehicle, and we will continue to crack down on establishments that decide to break the law or look the other way by passing vehicles on their yearly inspection with illegally tinted windows.” 

Cameron also stated that investigations like these could continue in the future.