In the land of “broken windows” policing, it’s tinted windows that may land you in trouble.
The New York City Police Department issued 74,345 tickets for tinted windows in 2014, an average of 204 per day, according to a recent analysis by the Police Reform Organizing Project, an advocacy group that focuses on what it sees as excessive policing.
That number is higher than the number of stop-and-frisks, which totaled 47,345 over the same period.
State law dictates that car windows must allow at least 70 percent of sunlight through, measured by a “tint meter” that officers carry. The maximum penalty for a violation is $150 or 30 days in jail. Ignorance of the law is no excuse: buying a car with too-dark windows can still lead to a ticket.
“A driver needs unobstructed views of the roadway and other motorists,” said Stacy Wood, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Motor Vehicles.
Critics see a law that disproportionately targets people of color and provides a pretext to churn revenue and fish for other violations or crimes. “It represents a form of heavy-handed and intrusive policing,” said Robert Gangi, founder of the Police Reform Organizing Project.
Broken windows policing, promoted by NYPD Commissioner William Bratton, theorizes that rooting out low-level, quality-of-life violations, such as graffiti, prevents more serious crime. “Bratton has said ‘broken windows’ policing is driven by 911 and 311 calls. But people don’t call the cops about tinted windows,” said Gangi.
NYPD spokesman Lt. John Grimpel said tinted windows can be dangerous to officers. “You can’t see into the car, so we would have no idea what’s going on inside when the windows are tinted,” he said, noting that people found guilty of having their windows too dark “aren’t going to get jail time.”
As of this June, there were 37,974 violations doled out for tinted windows in 2015.