Cue the sad Mister Softee jingle. Scores of ice cream trucks were seized by the city on Wednesday for their operators' alleged role in a traffic ticket evasion scam that went on for a full decade.
According to the city, the vendors amassed millions of dollars in traffic fines for running red lights, speeding, blocking pedestrian crosswalks, and other safety violations. But those debts went unpaid, thanks to a widespread scheme in which the trucks were repeatedly re-registered with the DMV under the names of various shell companies.
By doing so, the operators of 46 trucks allegedly managed to evade $4.5 million in fines accrued through some 22,000 violations since 2009. A civil lawsuit filed by the city is aimed at those with more than $10,000 in judgements or unpaid fines, and will prevent the owners from transferring vehicles with outstanding parking summons. An additional 44 ice cream trucks have been identified as dodging the Department of Finance. (It's unclear what will become of the confiscated trucks).
After apparently giving it a bit of thought, the Mayor's Office is calling the crackdown Operation Meltdown. Ha-ha. We love a jokey press release, don't we folks?
In a statement, Mayor Bill de Blasio quipped, "this seizure marks the end of the road for these scofflaw ice cream vendors." (Emphasis added, wincingly.)
a cherry on top an added bonus, the NY Post got an unnamed law enforcement source to say that there is "no sugar-coating the danger" posed by the ice cream truck operators. Are we all screaming yet? I am.
Mercifully, the city's corporation counsel, Zachary W. Carter, did not make any puns at all, but did note that ice cream trucks are "magnets for children," and thus "traffic laws must be strictly enforced" when it comes to them.
Operation Meltdown follows an announcement on Tuesday from the city's Department of Investigation that they'd busted eight people in a phony parking placard plot to avoid traffic tickets. Efforts to clamp down on systemic ticket avoidance by city officials have made significantly less progress.