Local elected officials are pushing for legislation that would increase oversight of tinted car windows in an effort to protect police officers and fight terrorism.
Two bills, one introduced yesterday in the state Senate and the other in the City Council, would increase the fines for vehicles with illegally darkened windows and require tests for window opaqueness during regular safety and emissions inspections.
The legislation follows the recent death of a police officer, Russel Timoshenko, who was fatally shot last month as he approached the window of a stolen sport utility vehicle. The SUV had tinted windows, police said.
"Every time a cop approaches a car with blacked-out windows, he is doing something no cop should have to do: walk blindly into a potentially life-threatening situation," Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum said in a statement.
New York law already prohibits windows that block less than 70% of available light. The state legislation would increase fines for businesses that tint windows illegally, while the city bill would ban the sale of do-it-yourself tinting film and require businesses to keep data on cars they tint.
New York car owners also would be charged an extra dollar for inspections to help cover the costs of tinting tests, which would involve the use of meters that measure the opaqueness of auto glass.
Lawmakers said increased enforcement of the tinted window laws would help law enforcement to observe suspicious behavior inside vehicles.
"If they're approaching an opaque window, it's the same as breaking down the door of a crack house with a blindfold on," City Council Member Peter Vallone Jr. said. "They need to be able to see if passengers are hiding drugs or other criminal paraphernalia." The legislation could also help officers who are trained to approach cars from the rear to see what is going on inside before they get there, he added.
Representatives of the police department said yesterday that they would have no comment on the legislation, which they had not seen yet.