Stealing car plates seems at first glance like a schoolboy prank. After all, what is the point of stealing a number plate? Surely it’s just kids that carry out a seemingly pointless act of vandalism and theft? Well, no it’s actually much more serious than you think, and could leave you with a multitude of problems if that stolen plate is then put on another vehicle that is used in a criminal activity. So if you have had your number plates stolen, what should you do?
Tell the police
The first thing to do if you suspect your numberplate has been stolen is to tell the police. It is an act of theft, and your report ensures that the authorities are notified in case your registration is then recorded at the scene of a crime. That could be something as seemingly innocuous as driving away from a petrol station without paying or something much more serious. You should immediately also notify the Driver’s Vehicle Registration and Licensing Authority (DVLA) of the theft, so that any reports of stolen vehicles or vehicles involved in criminal activity can be compared against your report and your name discounted in any investigation.
Don’t expect it to be an easy ride though. If your plates are fitted to another car, the authorities will have to check with you as to your movements, whether the car is in fact yours or even if you have an alibi for a particular time or place. Unfortunately, the onus of proof is going to be on you, but there are ways to protect yourself. Photographic evidence, particularly from speed cameras or the record of the suspect vehicle’s tax disc in the case of PCNs (Penalty Charge Notices) will quickly confirm that the vehicle recorded is not yours, and a picture of your tax disc is conclusive proof of your innocence. You can also ensure that your car is easily identifiable by having a distinctive sticker in a window, for example.
Not just physical theft…
But the problem isn’t just confined to actually stealing the car plates. Number plates can also be ‘cloned’, which is becoming a far more common problem. Although the authorities are attempting to prevent the incidences of cloning by ensuring that to buy a new plate you must present the car’s registration documents to the vendor, replicating a false plate is still a relatively simple process for determined car criminals. If you get any speeding tickets, penalty charge notices or, if you live in London, Congestion charge notices, you must immediately notify the authorities in writing that you suspect your car number plates have been cloned.
If you have been unfortunate enough to have your number plates stolen, keep a detailed diary of your journeys for a while. That way you will be able to determine your innocence more easily and it could also help the police to work out a pattern of the suspect vehicle’s movements from your information.
All number plates are at risk, including personalised plates. Another good way of preventing your car number plates being stolen in the first place is to attach them to the vehicle using special theft prevention or anti tampering screws. These are available both online and from specialist car dealers, so if you have concerns that your number plates may be at risk, stop the thieves before they strike and make sure your plates are secure. Of course, this won’t protect you against the possibility of cloning, but it will stop opportunist thieves from physically removing your number plates.
Finally, you can request that DVLA scraps the registration altogether and buy a new registration for your car. Scrapping the stolen number may mean that a cloner or thief using the plates is caught by an ANPR (Automated Number Plate Recognition) equipped police car. But this is an expensive option, and not one that those who have paid for personalised number plates will be willing to do. The most important thing to remember is to ensure that the theft or suspected cloning has been reported to the authorities as soon as you become aware of the situation. The faster you act, the faster you can prevent a minor inconvenience from becoming a major problem.