Transcript: Mayor Eric Adams Announces Crackdown on Vehicles with Illegal License Plates

Transcript: Mayor Eric Adams Announces Crackdown on Vehicles with Illegal License Plates

July 5, 2022

Chief Kim Royster, Transportation Bureau, Police Department: I am Kim Royster, the chief of the NYPD’s Transportation Bureau. And joining me here today is the honorable Mayor Eric Adams, the Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, New York City’s Sheriff Anthony Miranda, NYPD’s Chief of Patrol Jeff Maddrey, and Deputy Commissioner of Support Services Bureau Robert Martinez.

Chief Royster: Anyone can look around outside right now and see the proliferation of paper license plates affixed to vehicles that have been driving and parking on New York City streets. Many of these temporary plates, particularly the ones that appear to be issued by states other than New York, are fake. They’re fraudulent. And the drivers of the vehicles they’re attached to are fully aware that they are breaking the law and possession and using them. This is nothing new. Drivers have been attempting to skirt New York laws since 1901. Yes, I did say 1901. That’s when automobiles were first required to be registered by the secretary of state.

Chief Royster: In fact, people have been trying ever since to evade the laws and payment of services, but this particular offense is especially troublesome because of its clear connection with violence. For example, we’ve seen the same plates on different vehicles fleeing scenes of separate crimes in New York City. This makes it very difficult for the NYPD detectives to hone in on the owner or the driver of the particular vehicle. It essentially takes away from the identity of the vehicle that we use to positively identify and arrest suspects. For all intended purposes, it turns these vehicles into ghost vehicles. We’ve seen ghost cars with fake obscured license plates speeding through our school zones, where our children are playing. We’ve seen ghost cars driving through red lights and hitting pedestrians and other vehicles, causing serious injuries, and then driving away. In fact, of the 272 traffic related deaths in New York City last year, 16 involved vehicles with temporary license plates, more than half of which are fake.

Chief Royster: Ghost cars often park illegally causing the quality of life concerns that hinder the flow of traffic, block driveways, fire hydrants, and even handicapped ramps. These vehicles also present a serious threat to the public when unlicensed and uninsured motorists are behind the wheel. And certainly it’s not hard to believe that masking the identity of a vehicle in this way is an enticing idea for someone who might want to be planning a terrorist act. So how did we get here? As I said, this is not a new phenomenon. It’s a continuing pattern that exploded during the pandemic when DMVs were closed across the nation and the printed expiration dates on temporary plates were extended and then extended again.

Chief Royster: Criminals saw an opportunity here and they started selling on the internet photocopied plates, altered real ones, and completely counterfeit ones that were designed and printed at their homes. When you add to the myriad ways drivers intentionally obscure their real metal license plates in the attempt to evade tolls and to defeat red light or speed cameras, you really can’t blame law-abiding New Yorkers for thinking that in 2022, anything goes on our highways and our roadways.

Chief Royster: So what are we doing about it? In the recent months, the NYPD has been holding strategy meetings with our agency partners, the MTA, Port Authority, Triborough Bridge and Tunnel, the city’s Department of Transportation, the Sheriff’s Office, New York State Troopers, as well as our local district attorneys. This Vehicle License Plate Working Group, as we call it, is determined to end the far-ranging public safety hazards that threaten everyone that lives in, works in, or visits New York City, including the police officers who are sworn to protect them. This is our warning to all. This ends today. Anyone who commits these reckless acts will be held fully accountable for their behavior. That’s what we owe New Yorkers here today. The idea of creating these safe roadways for drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians alike is being reinforced through a weekly traffic safety forum that’s held at police headquarters.

Chief Royster: At these forums, outside agency reps share best practices and holistic approaches to road safety. And I want it to be clear. This is not a summer initiative or July crackdown. This is an active, ongoing part of the daily and nightly work of every NYPD police officer and investigator. This Working Group approach integrates the training and experience of literally thousands of patrol officers in our 77 precincts across every community in all of the five boroughs. Just like when we investigate shootings of violent crimes, this effort is intelligence driven and we use precision policing to focus on specific streets where we know vehicles with fraudulent plates or obscure plates are parked.

Chief Royster: No one knows a block or neighborhood better than the people who live there or the people who work there. So I’m asking you, please pick up your phone, dial 911, call 311, or log a complaint on New York City 311 smartphone app. If you know, or suspect that a ghost car is in the area, your complaint will lead an NYPD officer to the area to verify or possibly summons and tow that vehicle. And if the driver or the owner is present, they will be arrested. Our data shows that last year, arrests involving vehicles that displayed temporary paper plates rose to 3,568. This is a 300% increase compared to the 893 arrests that were made in 2016 involving vehicles that fit this category.

Chief Royster: One important fact is that 25% of the 5,500 vehicles with paper plates found in violation and towed by the NYPD’s Traffic Enforcement District last year were never retrieved by their owners. Through June of this year, 1,646 vehicles that were towed with paper plates, more than 34% were not claimed. So we are making headway here on this issue. And as I said, today we’re putting [inaudible] on notice. If you dare to obscure your real license plate, or if you affix an altered or forged temporary plate to your vehicle, we are out there right now in real time looking for your car and looking for you.

Chief Royster: Above all else, traffic safety is public safety, and that’s our top priority here today. It has been, and it will always be. And in closing, that’s what New Yorkers demand and they deserve. And that’s what our police department will do, and so will our other law enforcement partners. We vow to deliver that. So without further ado, I’d like to bring up to the podium the New York City Sheriff Anthony Miranda. Thank you.

Sheriff Anthony Miranda: Thank you.

Sheriff Miranda: Again, I’m Sheriff Anthony Miranda. It is a pleasure to be a part of the Working Group as well. It’s the initiative of both the mayor and the deputy mayor of public safety that all the agencies are now collaborating in this type of enforcement. This has been a responsibility of the Sheriff’s Office for quite some time. And we continue to do this level of enforcement. So to date, we seized over 800 vehicles in a 12 month period of span. In the last three months, we’re more than doubled the number of vehicles that are being towed. So it’s estimated that we will far exceed the limit that we passed last year of 800 vehicles that were totally seized this year. The vehicles that are seized, we’re also recovering weapons that you see in the photo to the right. We have been able to cover weapons and narcotics and other false identifications as well when we’re seizing these vehicles.

Sheriff Miranda: We want to make sure that we not only do the enforcement on the people who are driving these cars, but we’re asking anybody else who knows of anyone who’s illegally selling these plates and taking advantage of our communities. So please contact the Sheriff’s Office at 718-707-2100. You can call us. And if you have any information about people who are illegally selling these plates in our communities, so that we can take the appropriate action. Again, this is a joint effort of all the different city agencies cooperating and working in contingent saying that public safety is important. And this is a message we understand. We are all cooperating and talking to each other. Our systems are interacting. If you’re out there doing something illegal, we are collectively, we’ll try this, find you where you are, arrest you if necessary, and take summary reaction. Thank you very much. At this time, I’d like to turn it over to the mayor of the City of New York.

Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you. Good job. And I’m happy to be joined with my colleagues in government, Senator Sanders, Assemblyman Anderson, and the transportation chair of the City Council, Selvena Brooks-Powers. We all see the seriousness of this moment. And as I was looking over some of the plates, Washington, DC, Texas, one way permit, a New Jersey. Always knew something was strange about that place. New Jersey, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas. Again, New Jersey and Georgia. All locations outside our city. You continue to see that New York City becomes the burden of illegal actions that are being born in other municipalities. And we take the impact of it time and time again. And once again, we also continue to see the smart coordinating policing mindset that Deputy Mayor Banks is bringing to how we are fighting crime. No more disjointed public safety apparatus. All of our powers are coming together in his coordinated effort to realize we have one mission and we have one direction. No more separate entities operating in a silo.

Mayor Adams: He has continued to dismantle the silos and compel us to operate together as one unit to protect New Yorkers. And I said over and over again, there are many rivers that feed the sea of violence. We’re damming each river. And paper plates to some you’ll say, well, what does that have to do with damming a river? It dams the river of people using their vehicles for illegal behavior. And the vehicles we have behind us are mere examples of that. That 2014 Maserati, tinted windows, fled the police found to be in possession of a .40 caliber gun, possession of crack, suspended license in Brooklyn. A river that we were able to dam. Let’s just hope when we arrested him, he was not turned back out in the streets again after we locked him up. The white Jeep Wrangler driving on shoulder fled the police in car, then on foot, apprehended, carrying a gun. 2007 Dodge Caliber driving on opposite side of roadway, DWI arrest in the Bronx. When you see people leaving the scene, many times they’re under the influence. When you see people using these paper plates, many times they are doing something illegal. There’s a correlation between the illegal operating of a vehicle and not only possession of a gun, possession of narcotics, driving with suspended license, but also you saw the illegal operating of a vehicle in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a person fled the scene, struck several people. One of them was a grandmother who we lost, and another, a young child that’s holding on to his life right now.

Mayor Adams: Historically, we have ignored this. And so the chief stated in her presentation, how do we get here? She showed what happened during the pandemic, but there’s another reason we are here right now. We have ignored what one would consider to be quality of life issues. We have not connected to dots historically, and we believe that these quality of life issues had nothing to do with the overall patterns of crimes. That was just simply not true, and that is what Deputy Mayor Banks understood. And that is why you see this concerted effort that we’re doing. And we have added a powerful tool to our war chest with a sheriff that is clear on the mission and the team that he has built is focusing on how do we use every part of our law enforcement apparatus to go after those who are breaking the law?

Mayor Adams: So we’ve heard of ghost guns, now we’re talking about ghost vehicles. Ghost guns can’t be traced, ghost vehicles can’t be traced. And we know if we don’t get them off the streets, just like ghost guns, they become a weapon of death for our innocent New Yorkers. And so we’re fighting the increase in ghost cars that can’t be traced, just as you saw last week, we fought, and we are fighting the increase in ghost guns. So either forged, temporary license plates are made of paper or bending plates, all of these actions to allude being detected is what we are zeroing in on. And just like the ghost guns, these ghost cars, are often used in major crimes. And as the chief indicated, of the 271 traffic deaths in 2021, 16 involved vehicles with temporary plates, nine of those plates were illegal.

Mayor Adams: Since 2016, just the number itself speaks volume, a 300% increase in arrests for fraudulent plates. That means we’re taking action. We’re training our police officers not to drive by these plates, not to drive by these vehicles, but to stop them, conduct an investigation, determine if a crime has taken place and take action. No more ignoring these vehicles on our road.

Mayor Adams: And this, along with a spike in traffic violence, is showing why it’s imperative that we pursue this as vigilant as we are doing so. And I think that it’s important to know that those who are driving these vehicles speeding on highways in areas where you see increases in traffic crashes, in fatalities, this is not a video game. In fact, this is not a game at all. This is life and death that we are fighting for. A few days ago, as I indicated, Ms. Lynn Christopher was hit and killed. That video was chilling, watching the individual flee the scene with no regard for the pedestrians that he struck. Five people were struck that day, an eight year old boy still fighting for his life. It was one of the worst forms of lawlessness and cowardness, what we witnessed on that day, and that is why we are sending a very clear and loud message on pursuing this battle that we are in.

Mayor Adams: So through June 2022, more than a third of the impound cars with paper plates were not claimed. So think about it, you have a Maserati, why the hell aren’t you coming back for it? Because you don’t want to come back for it. That’s the problem, a third of the cars were not claimed. So it’s obvious the individuals who own these cars don’t want to come back for them, and you have to ask yourself why. We know why, because they were either used in a crime, illegally possessed or some form of illegal action created their possession of these cars.

Mayor Adams: We’re not stopping there. We’re issuing summons for covered plates. In 2022 a vehicle license plate group that was put together, the group is being trained on how to properly and proactively go after these vehicles. And so I want to thank the Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez for his forward thinking in this area, the Department of Finance for partnering with the New York City Police Department Working Group, and the team that has been assembled. And our chief, Chief Kim Royster, is zeroing in on this issue in so many different ways. As she stated, precision policing, precision examination where these fatalities are taking place, cross section of how we’re doing our enforcement and being ready to go after this group of lawlessness individuals.

Mayor Adams: The law is coming after anyone who tries to make their car untraceable, and we cannot continue to weaponize vehicles. We cannot ignore it. You can’t ignore the reality that there are people who are using the metal from a gun or the metal from a car to take the life of innocent people, and we’re going to pursue it in the same level of vigilance that we are pursuing. And we’re saying clearly, not on our watch will we sit back and allow this [inaudible] and dangerous interaction with civilians in public to continue in our city. This is an important initiative, it is important that we move forward in the right direction and that’s what we’re doing.

Mayor Adams: And we want to thank our partners in government, our state lawmakers, as well as the City Council members. We know that we are in this together, and we are going to continue to pursue this issue with the level of vigilance that it deserves. And so we’re open to any questions at this time. We’re going to do on topic, and then we will talk about some of the crime numbers. We have Chief Maddrey that’s here with us to talk about some of the crime numbers in the city last night. And also, our hearts goes out to Chicago. I communicated with the mayor of Chicago yesterday of… 55 shootings in Chicago, in her city, another few dozen took place outside at the parade. It’s just as mayors we are up against this just onslaught of guns, they have just saturated our cities, and we’re going to continue to fight hard together united and locally in our cities. We’ll open the floor up to questions.

Question: Yeah. So there are two things here. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard a mayor say that there’s going to be a crackdown on paper plates. They still proliferate in the city. The NYPD has previously said that they don’t have the tow truck capacity to go after all these cars. So can you just explain what exactly is new here? What’s different? And then along those lines, the MTA’s told me that these kind of illegal paper plates threatened undermine not only their tolling system as it stands, but the congestion pricing program that’s incoming. Have you talked to them about that? And along those lines, do you think the MTA is moving quickly enough in pushing forward with federal approval for that program?

Mayor Adams: I think the sole thing that’s different from those who’ve talked about it before and those who are talking about it now is Eric Adams, I’m the mayor now. We have a 300% increase and you’re going to see us aggressively address this problem. And I think we have a great partnership with the MTA. I am really pleased with the coordination. We want to zero in on those tolls. We want to coordinate the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority to identify these places. We have to take action. People have ignored this problem, they have not connected the problem with the violence. And that was something that Deputy Mayor Banks was able to coordinate. And we see the connection as we damn each one of these rivers. So we have a different approach than other administrations in fighting this problem.

Question: Yeah, so one of the problems… and following up on Clayton’s question. One of the problems in the past has been a limited number of tow trucks. So I’m wondering if you could tell us how many tow trucks you inherited from the previous administration and how many you have now, and how many you’re going to have to complete this effort? And also, as far as you gave fatality numbers of ghost cars, I wonder if you also have crash numbers of ghost cars?

Mayor Adams: Well, there’s two things we could do. Number one, I don’t know if we have those numbers off hand. If not Ydanis will get it to you, the commissioner would get it to you. But there’s other ways to make sure you keep a ghost car stationary. There are bootings that we can use. So there’s other methods that we can use to accomplish the task. We move from a place of, there is no reason not to accomplish the task. We need to make sure those cars are not mobile, unable to move, and if you have to use a booting system until you’re able to tow it, we’re going to do it. And the demand is to get it done. I don’t want my commissioners coming to me and state, “We don’t have enough tow trucks to do it.” There are tow trucks in this city, get it done. That’s the bottom line. We don’t do things because of, we do them in exception of. Let’s get it done. We will get it done.

Mayor Adams: How are you, Marcia?

Question: How are you doing, everything good?

Mayor Adams: Yes.

Question: So I’m wondering what the exact plan for interdicting these cars is. Because, for example, last week, my cameraman and I were driving up the West Side Highway, and just for fun, we were counting how many paper plates we saw on cars and they were everywhere. So are you going to have police cars at bridges, at tunnels, looking for paper plates? Or are you going to wait till you find them on the street?

Mayor Adams: Yeah, you know what? I thought I was the only one that played that game of counting paper plates, I did the same thing. And the different approach now is not just passing by them, every paper plate opens the door for an investigation to determine, is that plate legal? You see a plate like this one here, it tells you a date, expires, we were driving by this stuff. We thought as though, “Okay, we don’t have time to stop.” We’re now training the officers, as the chief stated, we’re training the officers. This is a potential crime, and you are not going to drive by this anymore. And that is what Chief Maddrey is doing with his patrol force in combination with the chief of transportation, we are now saying, “This is no longer acceptable.” We weren’t doing that at the level of what we were doing before. This is connected to our crime problem. This is connected to our vision zero problem. This is connected to the disorderly of our city. This is part of one of the rivers we are damning.

Question: Mr. Mayor-

Mayor Adams: What’s up, Steve?

Question: Good to see you. Another reason this may be proliferating across the city is the sense that anything goes among car owners because traffic violations issued by the NYPD overall dropped precipitously over the past two to three years. Is there an effort, a larger effort, to kind of turn that ship around and not just go after plates, but go after traffic violations overall?

Mayor Adams: Yeah. And you know my belief, you have to inspect what you expect or it’s all suspect. And I have been jumping onto the traffic stat meetings to find out what’s going on, because in January I was asked a question about decrease in numbers, and we said, “Let’s look into this.” And so Chief Royster has really taken the bull by the horn and looking and doing a real analysis where the drops are. Chief, you want to touch on that at all?

Chief Royster: Yes. So thank you, Mr. Mayor. As the mayor has said, we have been in conversations, not just with the mayor but during the traffic safety forum with all of the precinct executives as well as our Vision Zero partners. And one of the things we realized, that the beginning of the year started out very critical. We are turning the tide now. Our hazardous violations as well as our moving violations are up citywide. We’re increasing it week by day, 28 day period, and year to date. So we are focusing on those areas such as the intersection crossings where we see people speeding throughout the city. Our fatalities that have occurred throughout the city, we have enforced our moving violations as well as hazard violation, so the ship is turning. Thank you.

Mayor Adams: And what the chief has done during her presentation, she has examined those dangerous intersections. We’re going to redesign 1,000 intersections under Commissioner Rodriguez, but she has looked at where are the fatalities? Where are they taking place? And that is where we’re zeroing in on our focus. And what I was surprised to learn, what’s driving a lot of this is what’s happening on our highways, our speedings, and that’s why red light cameras, speeding cameras, 24 hours operation is important. It all comes together. It’s all part of the overall puzzle that we’re trying to put together.

Question: Mayor Adams.

Mayor Adams: How are you?

Question: How are you? Prefacing my question by agreeing that every river dam makes our city safer.

Mayor Adams: Yes.

Question: Nine illegal plates out of 271 traffic deaths is a small percentage. Is there a common factor among the others? Is it illegal intersections that accounts for the other traffic deaths?

Mayor Adams: We’ll find out, but every number matters. I cannot say to a mother, a father, a husband, a wife, that there was only X number of deaths. That’s not a consolation. We’re in the business of damming every river. We’re not in the business of damming the biggest river. We’re in the business of damming every river, and that’s my focus. My focus is to look at what is causing deaths, and when you start damming every river that feeds these crimes and these deaths, then you accomplish the task because there’s no consolation of, you knock on the door and say, “You lost your loved one but there was only eight people that died from vehicle traffic.” People don’t want to hear that, and that’s not what we are in the business of doing. The commissioner will give you a breakdown on the other fatalities and crashes that took place. He’ll give you that breakdown.

Question: Mr. Mayor. I wanted ask about the enforcement itself. Is this going to be a thing where when officers on patrol see these paper plates, will those drivers be pulled over and will those plates actually be checked?

Mayor Adams: Yes.

Question: Will they do this while they’re driving? How’s it going to work?

Mayor Adams: Combination. Number one, as you on routine patrol, you see a paper plate and it’s parked, you’re going to take action. You’re going to look. It states right here, the date of expiration. You’re going to take that necessary action of stopping that vehicle, interacting with that vehicle owner to find out, is it a fraudulent plate? They’re going to take action. We’re not going to just dismiss paper plates anymore, which we have been doing and that’s why you see that 300% increase. So it’s a combination. Parked vehicles, take actions. Vehicles that are double parked, take actions. Vehicles that are driving down our road and you see the expiration date has passed, take action. You look at this and you believe that it’s a fraudulent plate, take action.

Mayor Adams: We have the common right of inquiry and we are going to utilize that right to find out exactly what happened. Bad guys have embraced this belief that no one is checking on them and they can do whatever they want. The same person who’s driving this car with this illegal plate is the same person that’s participating in some of our shootings, the same person that’s doing the hit and runs. They believe that you could do anything in this city and we’re just changing that narrative. You can’t do anything in this city. This is a city of law and order, not lawlessness and disorder.

Question: [Inaudible] also be doing that, just because of the nature of how a lot of these cars are involved in criminal activity, you mentioned [inaudible]. Is that going to be something that’s gonna prevent it or [inaudible 00:30:51]?

Mayor Adams: Everybody, everybody’s in this game together. Neighborhood Safety Teams, their primary focus is focusing on guns. But while they’re focusing on guns, if they see a crime take place, they’re not going to ignore it and say, “Well, that’s not my area of focus.” Everyone is in the same game of fighting crime in this city. There’s no specialties that goes beyond fighting crime, and so if they see a plate, they’re going to take appropriate action if they have reason to believe that it is a fraudulent plate.

Question: Yes. Kelly [inaudible].

Mayor Adams: How are you doing?

Question: Good. I have a question. You touched on the judicial system before and you mentioned this in other places. How much pressure are you putting on the judicial system here in the city to make sure that whoever’s caught with paper plates or any of this violence, kind of, is getting the right degree of consequences so they’re not back on the street? You mentioned this in multiple press conferences. I wonder, what is the administration doing? Are they in talks? What is going on there?

Mayor Adams: In constant communication. We need the criminal justice system to match the urgency of our law enforcement agencies, and I just think there’s a lack of urgency. I believe that of the urgency of putting people through trials, of the shooting that we had over the weekend involving a correction officer taking action. The guy was out from a gunpoint robbery waiting to be sentenced. What was he doing on the street with a gun again? Because in his mind, we are a joke. These guys are not taking us seriously. And so when we start peeling back case after case, I’m blown away when the police department comes to me and says, “Eric, we just caught this guy a few days ago for a gun and he has another gun.” So we’re sending the wrong message. And so the pressure is not only from the police commissioner, the sheriff, our law enforcement partners. The pressure must come from the public.

Mayor Adams: We need to send a clear message to every arm of the criminal justice system that they are obligated to help us take dangerous people off the street and keep them off the street. Too many of these cases are involving repeated dangerous people, too many. Over and over and over again, a small number of people are committing these crimes throughout our city and we just have a different reality of what’s happening on the ground. Night after night, the police commissioner and I are going to these different shootings of children, of family members, of loved ones, and we see that it’s the same people over and over again.

Question: One quick follow up. Paper plates are a big chunk of what we’re talking about, but ultimately small compared to the number of regular plates that go through speed cameras. And obviously on August 1st, the speed cameras go 24/7 so you’re going to have a lot more people getting 15 speeding tickets or five red light tickets and qualifying for the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program. I’m wondering, maybe the commissioner can talk to this, but do you have the capacity to administer that program as well with the classes and then towing the people who do not take the classes?

Mayor Adams: Well, the goal is to meet the capacity as the needs are, and we’re good at doing that. We’re good at pivoting and shifting based on where the needs are. And I cannot say it better, I don’t want a commissioner coming to me stating that, “Eric, I don’t have the capacity to carry out a function.” That’s just not acceptable. If I have the capacity to do my job as mayor, they damn sure better have their capacity to do their job as a commissioner, and that’s Ydanis’s job. I said, “Don’t come to me and tell me I can’t do my job. Tell me the creative way you are going to accomplish your job.” It’s time for us to stop having excuses. It’s time for us to make sure we do our job. We have to keep this city safe and I’m going to take responsibility for the safety of this city, and my team is going to take that responsibility also.

Question: [Inaudible] clarifying question. What’s the charge someone with a fake plate would face and what would be the penalty for that?

Mayor Adams: You want to touch that?

Chief Royster: Sure. So if someone was actually observed with a fake or counterfeit plate, that is a misdemeanor in the penal law. And if someone has a fake plate and is parked, under the parking rules, we can tow that vehicle also.

Question: Any fines, prison term? What would be the penalty to come along with that?

Chief Royster: Well, the fines for parking would be $65, or if we have that car, we observe that car with a counterfeit plate as a moving violation, it could be anywhere from $65 to $200 as a fine in parking.

Question: What charge would they face?

Chief Royster: I’m sorry?

Question: You said if the person was with a car that had a fake plate, you could arrest them. If you arrest them, what would be the charge?

Chief Royster: It would be a misdemeanor charge, criminal possession of a fraudulent plate.

Question: Is that arrestable?

Chief Royster: A misdemeanor in the penal law. Yes, it is arrestable.

Question: Okay.

Mayor Adams: We’re going to take you off topic. You guys can bounce, y’all don’t want to be a part of this. Chief Maddrey, you can hang out so you can get some of this.

Mayor Adams: Thank you. Yes?

Question: Thank you. Mayor, I wanted to get your reaction to this. As you know, the latest numbers are 21 people were shot on the 4th of July. Obviously, you do the math, that’s almost one person an hour. Is the strategy working in your opinion? Does more need to be done? Are you making, is the cheat making any changes to the way the department is policing the city in light of that?

Mayor Adams: Let me tell you about crime. What crime is doing is it is overshadowing all that we are doing. We have some real Ws and crime is the number one issue on a New Yorker’s mind right now. Regardless of all the good stuff we’re doing, until we get crime under control, New Yorkers are going to feel we’re not making progress, which we are. We are decreasing in shootings for the last 11, 12 months. I don’t know exact number of months. 12 weeks, I’m sorry, 12 weeks. Decreasing shootings. Since we instituted our plan, we’re seeing a decrease in shooting, decrease in homicides. We’re seeing a 30 year high in gun arrest, 30 year high in gun arrest. So our plan, which we are constantly modifying, constantly shifting, is moving in the direction that we want it to move into.

Mayor Adams: Is it moving as fast as I want? No, I want it faster. I’m like New Yorkers, I want results overnight. But to say that the apparatus that Chief Maddrey has put in place and what he’s doing is not working, we’re moving in the right direction. We need help. I cannot say this enough, we need help. If Chief Maddrey and his officers arrest someone on Monday for a violent act and they’re out on Tuesday, it is like an endless flow. And so we are going to continue to take these dangerous people and weapons off the street.

Mayor Adams: We’re at a 30 year high in gun arrests in this city, and we see what’s happening across the country. Chicago, 55 shootings. We saw what happened outside the city of Chicago. Actually, when you add both of them, you’re talking about almost 70 something shootings. So this national problem is played out on our streets. We are making the right adjustments, we’re moving in the right direction and we’re going to win this battle. And I think that once we bring down crime to the level that we know it is, people are all of a sudden going to take notice to see all of the things that this administration is doing, but we’ve got to do it through crime first.

Question: Yeah, I got two easy ones for you, mayor. I wanted to see if you had a reaction to the Michael Gartland’s story this morning on Brad Lander approving about half a billion dollars in contracts to nonprofits that are affiliated with his wife. Do you think that’s a conflict of interest? And do you think it’s a problem that the comp controller is not recusing himself from those contracts at [inaudible]?

Mayor Adams: Well, Comptroller Lander, he’s aware of all the ethics rules. And I have to say that I believe that he’s going to follow them. And that’s the most I can say about it. We have clear ethics, rules, and as a controller, I have to believe he’s going to follow that. And he has to make the determination. Other than that-

Question: And real quick, I noticed you talked to a question earlier on whether the MTAs move in quickly enough on congestion pricing. So I’ll rephrase it. Do you think that congestion pricing should be implemented now or soon as possible in New York, as you had said last year on the campaign?

Mayor Adams: I’m sorry. I didn’t understand your question. I didn’t hear the congestion part of it. Yeah, we have to get it done, but I believe we should have exemptions. Also, we can’t be charging New York City buses congestion prices. That’s like taking money out of our pockets, giving it to the state. That’s not making any sense. We can’t charge police vehicles, ambulance. We can’t charge garbage trucks. So if we start charging our service vehicles a congestion price, we’re taking our tax dollars and giving it to the state. And so that makes no sense. So we have to get it right. We should do it in an expeditious fashion to get it done. It’s been a long time, but we have to be smart at how we do it, not to overburden New York City, because these are our roads,

Question: Mr. Mayor, this was a particularly bloody weekend, not only just yesterday, but the entire 4th of July weekend was full of crime and shootings. There are a number of people that consider going back to Stop, Question, and Frisk. Two former Police Commissioners, I believe Bill Bratton and Kelly. Members of the community agree we should in a controlled fashion. [Inaudible] the city to think about going back to Stop, Question, and Frisk to get the guns off the street?

Mayor Adams: That is probably… The question around Stop, Question, and Frisk, Stop, Question and Frisk is probably one of the most misreported stories that I have viewed in my public safety. Stop, Question, and Frisk has not stopped, which is not breaking the law. And so whomever says that you should just do it without following the law, we can’t do that. We can’t break the law. Officers are using the criteria of when to stop, question and frisk someone. They’re still doing that. They’re just not breaking the law. We’re just not waking up every day saying, “Hey, you’re going to stop, question, and frisk as many people as possible.” We can’t do that. That’s against the law and you can’t break the law to enforce the law.

Question: If we were to say, as mayor that you are going focus on legal Stop, Question and Frisk, then it would have a deterrent effect on people carrying guns. Cause the bad guys would know they can’t pick the guns on the street. If they don’t take them on the street, they can’t use them on the street.

Mayor Adams: Well, I’ve made it clear on many occasion, as much as I try to articulate this, that we want officers to use every tool that’s available within the law to go after those who are carrying guns. People push back on a campaign trail. When I talked about that, using a tool that’s available legally, I’m in support of using our plain clothes, modified plainclothes. People attack me on that, but we move forward to it. So I think that if there’s anything New Yorkers have learned by me is that I ignore the noise. I focus on how do we accomplish the task? And we are accomplishing a task. Decrease in shooters, decrease in homicides, 30 plus over 30 year arrest totals numbers are up. 3,300 guns taken off our street. So our plan is operating. I want it faster.

Mayor Adams: I’m like everyday New Yorkers. We’re opinionated, we’re critics, we want instant results. And so I want it faster. And I speak to the commissioner and the chief several times a day to say, “What are we doing? What are we doing?” Hey, listen, I am just really pleased with the thoroughness of this chief and how he’s looking at every apparatus. I heard him on the phone this weekend with his team, analyzing every shooting, zeroing in on the problems. We’re really blessed to have his skill set as the chief of patrol.

Question: Mr. Mayor, I have a COVID question, believe it or not.

Mayor Adams: Yes?

Question: Seems like we have this new variant. It evades immunity, cases are going back up. I know it’s broken record territory, but you always talk about pivoting and shifting and it seems like the latest pivot was closing testing sites and ending enforcement on the employer mandate. So what’s the next pivot here with this new variant?

Mayor Adams: First of all, we have not closed testing sites. We have expanded. Not only that, we become extremely creative. We’re leading the country on how to respond to COVID. Our home testing has prevented people from coming to the hospital, coming to their office or school sick. We are now using mobile units where once we test you, we’re giving you the medicine right there, so you can go home.

Mayor Adams: So what we are doing, we are leading the country. These variants are going to come. I’ve said this before, and I’m going to say it again. We have to learn to live with COVID. If we like it or not, we have to learn to live with COVID. And that means making smart choices, wear masks in areas where you’re concerned, make sure you get tested. If you have any symptoms, make sure you take the antivirus, when you feel the need to do so, when you are diagnosed. So these new variants are coming, we are watching closely every morning. We’re watching closely looking at the numbers, looking at the indicators to make sure we can pivot and shift. And I believe we’re doing a great job. We’re still able to rebound our economy. We’re still able to keep our schools going and operating. This is what people want of me. And so we are still focused very much on COVID.

Question: May I ask you to answer the criticism that you’re more style than substance, that your governing approach so far has been piecemeal photo ops more than detailed plans? What would be your big accomplishment in the first part of your tenure?

Mayor Adams: Okay. So when you look at the two reporters that criticized me from the time I was running and they were probably burning candles and incense, praying that I won’t become mayor and now they’re continuing their criticism. Then all of a sudden you say, “Well, all these people say you’re more style and substance.” Who people? Dyslexia screening in every school, is that a success? 30 to 40% of our inmates are dyslexic. We’re doing it in every school. And we’re going to Rikers to just screen them. Earned Income Tax Credit increase. First time in, I think, 20 years, that’s not successful? That’s not, I’m just curious? That’s not a success? I got more now?

Question: I know you do. I know they do, are these small puzzle pieces that add up to a bigger picture? That that’s not your approach, as it’s so much like a UPK kind of grand sweeping idea?

Mayor Adams: See, and that is what, as I said before, what many people make a mistake with. Our city is dysfunctional. And I have the audacity to come in and say, “I’m not just going to take one issue.” And first of all, dyslexia screening in every school, that is a big idea. 30 to 40% of our prisoners are dyslexic. That’s a huge idea. Earned Income Tax Credit, huge idea. 100,000 summer youth jobs that everybody was trying to get. No one’s able to accomplish huge idea. NYCHA Land Trust. Everyone tried. We were able to do it. Huge idea. When you start checking off the huge ideas in six months, six months and five days, how could you say, “Okay, this guy is just style and stuff?” And now I do got style, but how could you say this guy’s style and not substance? When you just start clicking off one at a time, what no one else was able to accomplish, we were able to accomplish.

Mayor Adams: Is that not substance? And so just because someone wants to give the impression, let’s look at the facts of what we have been able to accomplish and it fits into the overall plan. So if we are able to turn around NYCHA through our land trust, you know how long they’ve been talking about NYCHA? And we were able to get it done. They’ve been talking about Summer Youth Jobs. We have been able to get it done. We’re attracting businesses here. We have been able to get it done. And so I don’t listen to the noise of those who criticize me from the day that I announced that I was running and want to continue to poison the success that we have. Once we get crime under control, which we are, people are going to look over the six months of this administration and say, “Darn it. This mayor went after the foundational things that impacted this city for far too long.”

Question: Okay. Yeah, last one, according…


Question: Thank you, thank you. According to the stats we’re seeing, we’re only seeing a 4% increase in gun seizures from this time last year, despite obviously it’s top of your priority list more or less. So how do you account for the small, relatively, percentage of increase in gun seizures?

Mayor Adams: 30% high. 30% high in gun arrest. 30-year high in gun arrest, 30-year high. So if it’s 4%, if it’s 2%, there’s more guns we took off than others. And so people can say, “Well, 6% is not a lie. 99% is not a lie.” You can always say that we’re moving in the right direction. 4% is 4% less guns on our street to take an innocent person’s life. That’s a… To me, I’m happy about that. I’m happy about that.

Question: Can I ask a question related to Steve’s question about the closure of PCR testing sites?

Mayor Adams: Yes.

Question: Now the city’s doing more at-home testing, but we know that the at-home testing doesn’t allow the city to track outbreaks in the same league as PCR. So how do – can you justify closing down half of them? We closed down half of them in the spring.

Mayor Adams: We want to give you… We’re going to let you speak to Dr. Vasan because we disagree with that. But second, which is very important to acknowledge, is that how we’re doing the testing, this virus pivots and shifts, you have to pivot and shift with this virus. And we disagree with those who believe we have made in-service testing less. We think they’re wrong. And so we’re going to have you connect with Dr. Vasan and he explained to you exactly what’s happening, because we disagree with that. And people who are saying that is inaccurate.

Mayor Adams: We are… We have millions of tests that we are putting out. But in addition to that, not only do we use our information, but there’s clear methods that everyone is using to determine the increase in cases, the number of cases. It’s outside not only what we are doing internally, but the state and fed is also doing their own pattern of what’s happening. You’re looking at the numbers of your hospitals, that can’t lie, who’s there for COVID. You’re looking at the number of diagnoses, those are not lies. And so there’s a real pattern to determine in addition to what we’re doing, but we want you to speak with Dr. Vasan because it’s clear that’s a misread and a misprint that people stated.