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Altamonte Springs Police Department
Friday October 8th, 2010 :: 01:30 p.m. EDT


Have you checked your license plate lately? See email for full story

Have you ever been driving down the road when all of sudden you see blue lights flickering behind you. Does your life flash before your eyes? What did I do? I wasn’t speeding - I renewed my tag on my birthday - I signaled when I changed lanes – I yielded the right of way to the pedestrian – I’m wearing my seatbelt – what could it be? As the officer walks up to the car he says, “The reason I’m pulling you over is your license plate is missing.”

The theft of license plates is on the rise around the country. There are many reasons thieves target license plates. Some criminals find the plates helpful in disguising their true identity when stealing gas. Others may be struggling financially and resort to stealing a license plate to disguise an expired registration. Some criminals actually change out your license plate with another stolen plate to buy them additional time before police are notified about the theft.

A license plate is like a toothpick after eating an ear of corn – you don’t quite appreciate its value until you need it. Florida law requires each vehicle to properly display a license plate while being operated on a roadway. Some victims cut out a piece of cardboard and write down their tag number along with the words “Lost Tag”. Although their intentions are good Florida law does not allow a vehicle to be operated with a cardboard tag. Victims of stolen license plates should immediately notify the local authorities of where the crime occurred. Law enforcement will initiate a police report and enter your tag into a nationwide database as “stolen”. Victims should also obtain the case number to the report on the officer’s business card. Victim’s are not held responsible for the $43.15 replacement fee if they show the case number to the Clerk of the Court.

Can I place my tag on the inside of the vehicle propped up against the back windshield to prevent it from being stolen? No, Florida law is very clear that a license plate must be displayed in the manufactured designed location for the tag.

Are there any suggestions to make a theft more difficult for a potential thief? Yes! Visit any hardware store and ask for tamper proof security screws. The screws come in a variety of designs which all require a unique tool to remove the screw – a simple flathead or phillips screwdriver are no match for these screws. Security screws can be purchased for around $3.00 a set.

Bonus information – a license plate must be illuminated with a white light. It is against the law to operate a vehicle with a license plate that is outlined with neon colors. Then why did the custom auto shop sell me a $200 neon light kit designed to go around my tag? These type of accessories can be utilized while the car is parked on display such as for use in car shows. They are not intended to be used while the vehicle is in operation.

Stay safe!

Altamonte Springs Police Department
175 Newburyport Ave
Altamonte Springs, FL 32701

Emergency: 9-1-1
Non-emergencies: 407-339-2441

Lt Darin Farber
COPS Section

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