Reducing the Risk of
License Plate Theft
By Tom Gentry
Public Information Officer
Independence Police Department
An interesting fact most people do not realized is that license plate theft from a motor vehicle is another form of identity theft that can have serious consequences if not promptly and properly reported. Recent statistics have shown license plate thefts have increased significantly throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area and should be a concern to everyone.
One of the reasons for increases in license plate thefts can, more than likely, be attributed to fluctuations in fuel prices. If someone were to steal the license plates from your car and place it on their car, they could easily steal gas from a fuel station by driving off without paying for it and reduce their chances of being caught. If a witness made note of the license number on the suspect vehicle or a camera captured the license number, someone could very well want to make you accountable for the theft. Another reason for license plate thefts could be the increase of traffic control camera installations in the metro area. Photo-enforced traffic violations such as illegal U-turns, running red lights, or parking violations have become popular in many parts of the U.S. because every violation in view of the camera is recorded. When the license plate number is captured on video, the owner of that plate receives a traffic fine in the mail and is responsible for paying it. If the plate number happens to be yours because someone stole your plate, you’re stuck with the bill. Some criminals who use stolen plates do so to commit burglaries, robberies, arson, or any of several other more serious crimes. Stolen plates are also often used to disguise stolen vehicles after the fact in order to elude detection.
There are ways however, to reduce the risk of having your license plates stolen and here are some suggestions. Whenever possible, park your vehicle in a location that has a large number of people who can observe what is transpiring around your vehicle. Thieves do not like to be watched while they are perpetrating a crime. Instead of stealing plates from a vehicle in a high traffic area, they are more likely to move on to a vehicle where there is less chance of being observed. At night, a driver should always try to park in a well-lit area. Another easy and effective way to reduce the risk of stolen plates is to secure plates on the car with special security screws that are difficult to remove once they are installed. Security screws require a special tool to remove and can be acquired when the screws are purchased. Many auto supply stores offer these items at a fairly low cost and make it very difficult for thieves to remove. Again, a would-be thief would not want to spend so much time trying to steal plates that were so well secured, they would move on to another car.
Most importantly, if you ever become a victim of stolen license plates, report the crime to the local police immediately upon discovery. A record of the crime is recorded and you will have documentation to show a police officer if you are stopped, and you will need it to replace the ones that were stolen.
If you have any other questions regarding license plate theft, please call the Independence Police Crime Prevention Office at (816) 325-7643 or the Missouri State Highway Patrol at (816) 662-0800.