Police need help to crack plate crime

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A freedom of information request to the police by the AA has revealed that 29,256 numberplates were reported stolen last year. This has gone some way to answering why so many citizens going about their lawful business have been accused of offences they did not commit in places they were nowhere near at the time (well, most of them).

“Not considered in the overall problem were the stolen number plates that were not reported to the police,” says crime guru, Ken German, “those illegally obtained from unauthorised dealers, and existing registration plates that were simply altered to deceive. Added together, you could easily treble the number of ‘wrong’ plates on the road to nearly 90,000 vehicles.”


An earlier request to the police asking how many cloned plates were on UK roads received only six replies from 36 forces, and they agreed that the real number was anyone’s guess, and simply impossible to quantify.

Nearly 80% of all crimes in the UK have a car or motorcycle involved somehow even if it simply transports the criminals to and from the scene of the crime.   

With so many CCTV and ANPR cameras covering the UK road network, criminals need to hide their vehicles in plain sight using the existing identity of a similar car, motorcycle or moped so that they won’t be placed at the scene of a crime.

But while theft of actual numberplates is common, organised criminal gangs also have both the money and the means to buy registration plate-making machines for themselves, compounding the problem and making it even easier to rapidly clone plates from an identical bike using details taken from sale adverts or dealer websites. It’s only when these cloned vehicles are physically stopped by the police that the false identity can be spotted and action taken.

How to protect yourself?

Security bolts will help make your plate harder to steal than the one on the bike parked next to you, and ensuring you don’t show your numberplate on your social media feeds is sensible.

It’s crucial you report the theft or loss of a numberplate to the police, as this will help should you get a summons, parking or speeding fine, or be accused of being the getaway rider at an armed robbery.

“It is up to you as the keeper to satisfy the issuer of any offence notice that it was not you or your vehicle,” says German. “It is also important to write to the DVLA regarding the circumstances of the wrongful allegation.”

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By MCN News