standard Tinted Window Checkpoints in Crown Heights: Profiling or Smart Policing?

Crown Heights Car Checkpoint

Police conducted a checkpoint for tinted windows Monday on Franklin Avenue (photo by Matthew Taub)

A crackdown on tinted windows in Crown Heights was received with a mix of skepticism, helplessness, and begrudging understanding.

Police narrowed the roadway on Franklin Avenue just a few blocks south of Eastern Parkway at around 7 p.m. Monday evening, asking each vehicle to roll up their windows so offers could view their relative translucency. The officers were polite and respectful, but vehicles (including bus traffic) were significantly backed up as a result of the operation.

“Ade,” who grew up at the very intersection where the checkpoint was taking place, had his doubts.

Backed up cars at the NYPD Checkpoint in Crown Heights (Photo by Matthew Taub)

Backed up cars at the NYPD Checkpoint in Crown Heights (Photo by Matthew Taub)

“They come here because they know they’ll find the infraction,” Ade said, “but at the same time, you won’t see this in Bergen Beach. You won’t see it in Bay Ridge.”

New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law requires a “light transmittance” of 70 percent for vehicle windows, the highest required light transmittance  in the nation (shared with California and Pennsylvania). A petition in 2011 to reform the law claimed that “drivers are more likely to develop and are at increased risk of developing skin cancer on the left sides of their bodies” and that “the law has been used as a ‘money maker’ for counties [that] encourage overzealous strict enforcement.” 

Police claim they are merely enforcing existing law–the violation of which creates risks for police performing their duties, since they cannot ascertain who is behind a motor vehicle, and pedestrians and bicyclists on the roadway, since the motorist often cannot see these individuals as well–and that infractions often lead to searches yielding evidence of additional crimes.