Preventing License Plate Theft

by | Jun 26, 2024

Preventing License Plate Theft

In the midst of high crime rates, license plate theft has emerged as a prevalent concern, particularly in urban locales. While full car thefts remain a concern, thieves increasingly target smaller, easier-to-remove items like license plates. This surge in petty theft has left many residents feeling vulnerable and seeking solutions.

It’s important to understand the dynamics of license plate theft, its implications, and how to protect your vehicles.

The Rise of License Plate Theft

It may not get the attention that vehicle theft does, but license plate thefts are rising virtually everywhere. In Aurora, Illinois, for example, it jumped from 57 reported cases in 2020 to 82 in 2021. Houston experienced 355 plate thefts in the first three months of 2022, but 516 for the same period of 2023. The Bay Area (Deep Sentinel’s home base) is no exception.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), license plate thefts increased by a staggering 45% between 2019 and 2022. News outlets have reported a noticeable uptick in incidents from coast to coast.

Understanding License Plate Theft

License plate theft involves the unauthorized removal of license plates from vehicles. If the thieves attach the stolen plates to another vehicle, that’s called “cold-plating.” The thieves often use this method for nefarious purposes such as concealing stolen vehicles or committing other crimes anonymously. Or even just racking up tolls.

A report by ABC7 News revealed that license plate theft in the Bay Area has seen a worrying surge. Law enforcement agencies are struggling to curb this trend. The convenience and anonymity that stolen license plates offer make them an attractive target for criminals.

Plus, it’s a simple and fast crime compared to stealing an entire car. With a screwdriver and a few moments alone, a thief can get most plates off without any trouble.

Why License Plates?

While it might seem like an odd target, license plates hold significant value for criminals. Criminals can use them for multiple purposes.

  • Evade Law Enforcement: Thieves frequently attach stolen plates to vehicles. Sometimes, the secondary vehicle is a stolen car. Sometimes, the secondary vehicle is part of another crime (like a robbery), and the dummy plate makes it harder for authorities to track down the perpetrators.
  • Commit Toll Evasion: Thieves can rack up tolls or fines without consequence if the toll system can’t recognize the right plate.
  • Facilitate Identity Theft: In some cases, stolen plates are part of a plan to create fake IDs or commit other forms of fraud.
  • Manufactured Anonymity: Individuals may replace their plates with stolen ones to conceal their own identity. They might try this scheme if they don’t carry insurance or they have a suspended license.

Protecting Your License Plates

While the prospect of falling victim to license plate theft may seem daunting, you can take proactive steps to minimize the risk.

  • Invest in Anti-Theft Screws: One of the simplest yet most effective deterrents against license plate theft is the use of anti-theft screws. These specialized screws require unique tools for removal, making it significantly harder for thieves to tamper with them. These anti-theft screw kits are readily available on Amazon.
  • Park in Well-Lit Areas: Whenever possible, park vehicles in well-lit areas with high foot traffic. Thieves are less likely to target vehicles parked in conspicuous locations where their activities are more likely to be noticed. Avoid leaving vehicles in dark or isolated areas, especially overnight.
  • Use Security Cameras: Installing security cameras in parking areas deters potential thieves. Surveillance footage can also aid law enforcement in identifying the perpetrators in the event of a crime.
  • Report Suspected Activity: Remain vigilant and report any suspicious individuals or activities near your vehicles to the authorities promptly. Timely intervention can prevent thefts or aid in apprehending the culprits.
  • Consider Special License Plate Security Products: Explore various license plate security products available in the market, such as tamper-resistant frames or locking mechanisms, to add an extra layer of protection.

What to Do If Your License Plates Are Stolen

If your license plates go missing, take these essential steps.

Step 1: Report the Theft to Law Enforcement

Don’t delay! Refrain from operating your vehicle until you have filed an official report with your local police.

Reporting the crime is important for multiple reasons. It initiates an investigation and helps you potentially recover your plate. It also helps law enforcement track crime patterns. Additionally, you’ll need an official report to get a replacement plate from the DMV. This is crucial to protect yourself from future crimes or traffic violations involving your stolen plate(s).

While some departments may take reports over the phone, be prepared to visit a precinct in person. Get a copy of the report for your records.

Step 2: Verify That the Plate Has Been Registered in LEADS

While this should be automatically processed upon filing a police report for a stolen license plate, confirm with the attending officer. Your information should be in the Law Enforcement Agencies Data System (LEADS), which interfaces with the National Crime Information Center—a nationwide database for law enforcement.

This measure ensures that if your plate shows up during criminal activities in another state, it will be flagged as stolen.

Step 3: Notify Your State’s Motor Vehicle Department

Submit a license plate revocation form to the relevant department in your state. This notification informs the state’s records that your plate has been stolen. It also initiates the process of obtaining a temporary tag or a new license plate/number for your vehicle.

Depending on your state’s regulations, you may need to include a police report detailing the theft when filing these forms.

Step 4: Invest in License Plate Security

To prevent future thefts, consider using anti-theft screws or license plate locks. These inexpensive devices can be a powerful deterrent, making it much harder for thieves to remove your plates. More holistic car security, like security guard surveillance, is even better.

By taking these steps promptly, you can minimize the potential harm caused by license plate theft and safeguard your vehicle and identity.

Comprehensive Protection for Vehicles

It’s time to consider a more comprehensive solution to deter license plate theft and other property crimes. Deep Sentinel’s innovative video surveillance system combines AI-powered cameras with live guards who actively monitor your property—even when you’re away, busy, or asleep. If a potential thief approaches your vehicle, Deep Sentinel’s guards can intervene and alert the authorities if necessary.

It’s a great solution for personal vehicles. And if you own a dealership, repair shop, or car lot, Deep Sentinel has robust auto dealer security options, too.

This proactive approach to security goes beyond traditional measures, ensuring the safety of your vehicle and your peace of mind. By implementing security measures, dealerships and individuals can significantly reduce their vulnerability.

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Need a Solution that Prevents Crime? Deep Sentinel is the only security technology that delivers the experience of a personal guard on every customer’s home and business. Visit or call 833.983.6006.

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