The Globe & Mail and Global News have pubished articles about license plate theft. It seems to be a bigger issue than many of us realize.
According to the articles, Calgary police reported that plate thefts have risen by more than 80% from 2014 to 2015, with about 7,000 licence plates stolen annually. Edmonton, in 2012, saw more than 2,000 plates stolen. That is a lot of thefts.
There are several reasons why your license plate might be in demand.
Plates can be sold in exchange for money or drugs. They are stolen by a person who can’t get insurance therefore can’t obtain a vehicle registration. The Repo man is looking for their car. People might want to avoid paying tolls and avoid license plate recognition systems. You can imagine the time it takes out of your day to defend yourself against red light tickets generated by your plates but the photos are not actually of your car (read article).
Have you looked at your license plate lately?
One trick to be aware of is that when a plate is stolen from a car, it might actually be switched with another similar plate. When you walk past your car you might not even notice that your actual plate has gone missing, hence it doesn’t get reported to the police.
Thieves can swap plates between two cars that are very similar, one of which is stolen. The owner of the stolen car will report the car stolen, but the owner of the non-stolen car will get pulled over instead of the thieves. If they make multiple plate switches such as this, finding the stolen car can be difficult.
What can you do?
- The next time you go out to your car, take a quick glance to see that your actual registered plates are on your car.
- Consider getting anti-theft screws that require a special tool to install and remove. In some jurisdictions, the authorities might provide these screws to you for free. If possible, put in all four screws to make the plate removal more arduous.
- Attach a frame over the licence to make it harder to remove.
Be vigilant of suspicious activity
License plate thefts can occur at your home overnight or while you are parked in large lots (a mall, airport, or stadium). We’ve all seen people tinkering with license plates near motor vehicle offices – it’s not viewed as an unusual activity.
If you have concerns about your license plate sticker be stolen, here are some suggestions we’ve read about;
- Use a razor blade to cut an X into the sticker making it harder to peel off.
- Remove an old sticker before applying the new sticker.
- Purchase a license plate cover.
It could be a stolen license plate
For our Windshieldink mobile app users, when you enter the licence plate of a suspicious vehicle into the app and the verification step confirms the license plate but vehicle descriptor is different, this could be a stolen plate.
We suggest you verify that you correctly entered the plate number and origin. If it checks out, go ahead and send your Windshieldink message since the message goes to the original plate owner. In your message, let them know you happened to come across their plate on another vehicle and include your GPS location so they can contact the police to provide the location of the vehicle with the stolen plate. Unfortunately if the license plate isn’t registered with Windshieldink, then all we can do is hope the vehicle owner will notice their license plate is missing or has been swapped.
Be vigilant at all times. Your licence plates may be doing a lot more than you think they are.
We’re interested in hearing from you. Send your comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.