The joy ride is coming to an end for illegal dollar vans cruising the streets of southeast Queens.
The Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) has teamed up with the 103rd Precinct to continue a crackdown, embarking on monthly checks of the area and stopping illegal vans they find running rampant through the streets.
“They take money out of the city’s pockets,” said NYPD Lieutenant Jason Margolis of the drivers, found mostly in Jamaica.
Patrols for the illegal vehicles are typically conducted between Archer Avenue, Sutphin Boulevard, Liberty Avenue and Merrick Boulevard. More times than not, the drivers and their vans are uninsured, in which case the NYPD will write the drivers a summons and impound the van.
Lately, sweeping the borough clean of the illegal vans has proven much more effective than in the past. In 2011, only 31 vans were identified and taken, and this year the number so far totals 1,593 vans.
“We’re doing some huge numbers in terms of seizure,” said TLC Commissioner Jeff Hunt. “We want to make sure that when we go out, we are effective. We don’t want to bring in just one or two.”
Margolis also said that the drivers tend to have a criminal background.
“We’ve found guys with weapons, under the influence while driving, with suspended licenses,” he said. “We’ve had guys fight with us, we’ve had guys run from us. It’s not good for public safety.”
Once a month, an officer from the 103rd Precinct will go on patrol with two members of the TLC, on the hunt for illegal vans. Margolis said the trick is to look at the license plate — if the van’s plates don’t say “LIVERY,” they shouldn’t be providing a taxi service.
The NYPD has received complaints from residents about the danger that the vans pose, but a majority of these come from registered, insured TLC drivers.
“These guys are taking their business away from them,” said Margolis.
The lieutenant also said that the illegal vans tend to come out more so at night.
Allan Fromberg, press director for the TLC, said that the organization is focusing on connecting with community leaders to let them know about the work they and the NYPD are doing, and in turn to also listen to what the community is saying. They have adopted a “zero tolerance” position for the illegal drivers’ violations.
“If we keep doing checks, keep focused on it, we’ll be able to reduce it as much as possible,” said Margolis.