For the better part of a decade, stories have persisted about “cop cabs” appearing from seemingly out of nowhere, lights flashing and sirens blaring, on the streets of New York City. On occasion, clips have popped up on Youtube to provide credence to these claims.

Though the NYPD has never publicly acknowledged the reasons for deploying undercover patrol cars meticulously disguised as the city’s ubiquitous yellow cabs, Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman revealed in their 2013 book, Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit and bin Laden’s Final Plot Against America, that at least one yellow cab, “complete with an authentic taxi medallion registered under a fake name” was used to conduct surveillance on Muslims in mosques and other gathering places by the NYPD’s now-disbanded “Demographics Unit.”

Motherboard‘s Matt Guariglia filed several Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the NYPD and the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to find out what’s the deal with the cop cabs:

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