Help me identify the license plate of this car that hit me
March 18, 2014 8:50 AM   Subscribe

Hi everyone, I was hit by a car a few hours ago near Grand Central in New York City, the driver then drove off. I am filing a police report and would like to include the license plate number, but the photo I got with my iPhone is largely washed out. Help?

The right 4 numbers are visible (I've cropped two of those out), as is the make and model of the car (also cropped). But the left 3 letters are hard to read.

Anyone have any ideas for identifying these? NYS license plate numbers of this type are apparently all formatted AAA 1234 if that helps.



(In case you are worried, the car intentionally drove into me at a very slow speed in a crosswalk, hitting me in the shin. So I don't think I am seriously injured but would like to file a report all the same.)
posted by thumpasor to Travel & Transportation (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Looks like C - something - 86
posted by bleep at 8:55 AM on March 18, 2014

Best answer: Quick and dirty curves adjustment:
posted by FishBike at 8:57 AM on March 18, 2014

Use the Photoshop Express app and tweak the contrast.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:57 AM on March 18, 2014

Best answer: Unfortunately, there's not much to go on - a minute or two in Photoshop reveals that most of the pixels in that region are just plain #FFF white, so no amount of curving will bring that data back. The leftmost letter seems to be a C or G; more probably a C. Judging by the placement of the vertical on the rightmost letter, I'd suggest it might be an L.

CEL - 86xx would be my guess.
posted by fifthrider at 8:58 AM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Alternatively, there's an entire letter missing on the right, and it's CHx - 86xx. Trouble is, there's very little space on the right for a third letter. One's first inclination might be to say there's an "I" there, but license plates deliberately avoid having I's on them to prevent confusion with 1s.
posted by fifthrider at 9:01 AM on March 18, 2014

I agree with fifthrider, except the second letter could also be an F, so CEL-86xx, CFL-86xx, GEL-86xx, GFL-86xx would be my first four guesses.
posted by tuxster at 9:02 AM on March 18, 2014

Are you sure it was 3 letters and 4 numbers? Not every NYS license plate fits that pattern. I've definitely seen 2 letters followed by numbers on some special plates.
posted by dcjd at 9:03 AM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The first letter is a G - it matches the font they use. Try typing in GH [anything else] at this NY DMV link and look at the difference between the G and the C. I also tried a bunch of variations on GH 86** and none were available (yes, there's a space between H and 8). Plug in your last two numbers and see if that plate is available.
posted by desjardins at 9:04 AM on March 18, 2014

Best answer: You should be able to give the police the partial plate number along with the make, model, and color of the car. (and the photo you took)
posted by royalsong at 9:07 AM on March 18, 2014 [8 favorites]

Best answer: The pick with a partial plate and the make/model of the car is enough evidence.

They can find this person, no worries.
posted by jbenben at 9:08 AM on March 18, 2014 [8 favorites]

To my eye, the vertical bars look too far apart to be an H.

Good luck.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 9:14 AM on March 18, 2014

I think it's better to give the police what you know for certain (last four digits on the license plate + make/model/color of the car + photo) than to give any speculative evidence. They can narrow this way down (or maybe even figure out exactly who owns the car) just with that information, so no need to stress out over determining the first three letters on the plate.

Good luck. I hope they catch this asshole!
posted by schroedingersgirl at 9:18 AM on March 18, 2014 [6 favorites]

Nth'ing to give the cops the pic rather than trying to decipher it (but it's totally GFL 86**, BTW).
posted by Etrigan at 9:28 AM on March 18, 2014

If you are giving something to the police as evidence, I'd say don't alter the photo in any way. As others have said, a partial plate and the make/model/color is plenty. Glad you weren't seriously injured!
posted by Beti at 9:44 AM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wikipedia has a list of NYS county codes for the first 3 letters on NYS plates.

I think just having the first letter and the last four numbers could be enough considering the limited number of county codes.
posted by cazoo at 9:45 AM on March 18, 2014

cazoo: Those county codes are obsolete. (they were apparently used in 1973 to 1986) I can confirm that my plate doesn't match the list.
posted by dcjd at 10:22 AM on March 18, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! This is really helpful, especially the advice to just bring what I have to the police. Much appreciated!
posted by thumpasor at 10:30 AM on March 18, 2014

License plate collector here.

I'm going to immediately debunk cazoo's answer by telling you those NY county codes were only used prior to the Statue of Liberty plates, which were introduced in 1986. That's not going to help you today. Even in the 70s, the county code system in NY was very messed up; sometimes they adhered to it, and sometimes they didn't.

The plate in your photo looks like CEL-86xx. The picture is way way too washed out for me to make it out, and the last two digits are cut off. You can go to the police with a partial plate number and a description of the car, and they MAY be able to figure out the last two digits, and therefore, the person or company to which your hit-and-run car is registered (perhaps not the driver).

License plates in NY (and in most other states as well) are issued sequentially, i.e. three people standing in line at the DMV to register their cars will get ABC-1234, ABC-1235, and ABC-1236, regardless of what kind or color of car they have. Where this works to your advantage is if this was a used car registered at the DMV. Where this will NOT work to your advantage is if this was a new car purchased at a dealership, as car dealers also get sequential stacks of plates from NY DMV.

Now, if CEL-8600 through CEL-8699 (or some other smaller block of plate numbers) were all issued to this particular kind of car from a dealership, the police can still look at those cars (which match the color of the car) and see if any of them has damage consistent with your accident. I don't know if they'd be willing to do that much work, particularly in Manhattan.
posted by tckma at 10:46 AM on March 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

desjardins: NY switched from blue-on-white plates to blue-on-yellow plates at FAA-1000. If that's a blue-on-white plate (which is what it looks like), that's a C. If it's a yellow-on-white plate, it's a G.
posted by tckma at 10:49 AM on March 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

Looking at the enhanced photos that FishBike and fifthrider posted, this is definitely the newer blue-on-yellow plate, and that's definitely a G.

GEL would likely have been skipped as they tend to skip common words (and potentially offensive letter combinations).
The letter I is not used as it's too easily confused with the number 1.

I now revise my guess to GHL-86xx.
posted by tckma at 11:03 AM on March 18, 2014

The middle letter isn't an H, because the two vertical "shadows" are different lengths (you can even see it in the original if you tilt your monitor). It's gotta be an F.
posted by Etrigan at 12:31 PM on March 18, 2014

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