Recently there have been articles in the Globe & Mail and Global News 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 plates might be in demand.
One reason is that they can be sold in exchange for money or drugs. Plates may also be stolen by a person who can’t get insurance therefore can’t obtain their vehicle registration. Possibly the Repo man is looking for their car.
Another possible reason is that people want to avoid paying tolls and avoid license plate recognition systems. One can imagine the time it takes out of your schedule to defend yourself against the red light tickets generated by your plates but the photos are not actually of your car (Read Article).
One trick to be aware of is that when a plate is stolen from a car, it may 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, then finding the stolen car can be difficult.
So what can you do about it?
- We suggest that when walking past 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 may 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.
License plate thefts can occur at your home overnight or while you are parked in large lots such as 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 theft of your license plate sticker, we have read about suggestions such as using a razor blade to cut an X into the sticker making it harder to peel off, removing an old sticker before applying the new one, or getting a license plate cover.
For our Windshieldink mobile app users, if 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 possibly 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.
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