According to a study by conducted by RAC, approximately 20,700 number plates are stolen annually, which averages at about 56 a day. In almost all cases, the plates are stolen to mask criminal activity, which includes:
(i) Fuel Theft: Motorists fill their vehicle with fuel at a station and drive off without paying. Since they are using fake plates, they are not concerned about being caught on camera
(ii) Concealing a stolen vehicle: They will usually steal number plates from vehicles of the same brand, model and colour with the stolen ones – a process the police calls car cloning. Once the number plates have been replaced, they can then use the vehicle without fear of detection. In many cases, the vehicles are then used during more serious crimes. It is not unheard of for the original number plate owners to be awakened in the middle of the night by a large contingent of policemen outside their house.
(iii) Avoiding speeding or illegal parking fines: This may seem trivial, but the fines could add up to a hefty sum after a few months, and the innocent owners of the number plate would be encumbered with thousands of pounds worth of fines that they will only discover at a future date.
If the number plates from your vehicles have been stolen, immediately lodge a police report. Time could be of the essence here. If you have filed a report, then you will have a shield in the event the number plates were involved in a serious crime. In addition, the report will also help you contest any future parking fines or traffic tickets. Thereafter, buy a new set of number plates before driving around in your vehicle.
The first rule is to park your vehicle at a safe and secure location. If your home has a gate, park the car inside the house. If you’re parking in an office or apartment complex, park at a well-lighted location, preferably as close as possible to human traffic (staircases, lifts, etc.). If the location has a CCTV, park within its visual coverage.
For added security, use anti-tamper screws when affixing the plates. Removing such plates is a very time-consuming affair since the screws come with a special locking key – you can use conventional screwdrivers to unscrew them, and the design prevents the head from being grabbed by pliers or spanners.
The extra minutes, even seconds, it takes to remove your number plates might be enough to deter any would be thief.
On a final note, thieves will avoid any flashy personalised number plates – they are too easy to spot. So if you own a private plate, you can breathe a little easier.