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License Plate Tab Theft
May 6, 2009

Protecting Yourself Against
License Plate Tab Theft

By Tom Gentry

Public Information Officer
Independence Police Department

We’ve all heard the old saying many times that, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Most everyone would agree with it, but how many of us actually take the time to practice the concept, especially when it comes to crime prevention? The probable answer is that most of us do not as much as we should.

One of the most recent issues to arise regarding protecting oneself from becoming a victim of a crime is the issue of preventing personal vehicle license plate tabs from being stolen. Throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area police departments have taken several reports from citizens complaining their vehicle license plate tabs had somehow been stolen from off the plate. Investigations revealed that many of the stolen tabs appeared to have been scraped off with something like a razor blade tool.

The first and most important thing for a person to do to prevent license tabs from being stolen is to follow the directions of the Missouri Department of Revenue for the placement of the tabs on the license plate. The Missouri Department of Revenue, “recommends that you place your license plate tabs in the MIDDLE of your license plates to help prevent tab theft… several years ago, the department changed the placement of license plate year tabs, moving them from the lower right-hand corner to the center of the license plate (for regular license plates only, not personalized or specialty plates) as an effort to help reduce tab theft. The standard license plate also now features an indention in the middle of the plate to reduce the risk of tab theft.” The indenture in the middle of the license plate makes it extremely difficult for some thief to scrape the tab off the plate. The blade cannot get under the tab without bending the tab which causes the tab to bend and disintegrate. In addition, before placing new tabs on the license plate, be sure to remove the old tab. Old tabs raise the new tab higher out of the indentation, thus making them easier to steal, and they also help support the newer tab from bending and falling apart should someone make the attempt.

Another precaution to take is to purchase a clear plastic cover for the license plate. The cover makes it more difficult for a thief to remove a tab quickly because of the bolts that must be removed to take off the plastic cover. Most thieves would rather take advantage of a quick and simple opportunity. If an opportunity does not meet that criterion, they will more than likely go somewhere else. Plastic covers over license plates were illegal in Missouri previously, but a change in the law in 2008 now allows vehicle owners to utilize them for protection. The cover must be clear so the license plate can be easily seen.

If you have any other questions regarding crime prevention, please call the Independence Police Department Crime Prevention Unit at (816) 325-7643.

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