Investigators Say License Plate Thefts Are On The Rise

By: Melina Matthes

OMAHA (kptm) - Crooks stealing license plates, Omaha police said it's been a problem for years, but now investigators said thieves are after something more specific, dealer plates.

Police said some dealerships don't keep track of their plates and now they're ending up on stolen cars.

Fox 42 News discovered it's a chance for criminals to avoid getting caught and a lot of people don't want to talk about it.

We tried contacting dealerships around Omaha and nearly a dozen refused to comment about the problem on camera; however the majority said at one point or another they have struggled with this issue.

One dealer said it happens so frequently that he doesn't report every theft. Instead he waits until the end of the year and then reports the grand total.

However, it's not just car dealerships that are struggling with this problem; it's also hard working tax payers. "It was kind of frustrating. I didn't know what was going on. I didn't know if they wanted to steal the car or take the license plate for something so that's why I immediately called police."

Amon Muganyizi said he's had a difficult week after discovering crooks had stolen the plates off his car. "On this one they just yanked them off. You can see they broke it," he said while pointing at the damage.

Without the plates, he's been unable to drive his Honda, meaning trouble getting to work and taking his kids to school.

It's a problem Captain Eric Sellers with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office said he's seeing more of. He said crooks stealing plates is on the rise. "It's easier and cheaper for them to put another plate on and suffer the consequences than to come up with the money they lawfully should to plate their vehicles."

And he said car dealerships are also struggling with it. Criminals are targeting dealer plates, but the problem he's found is that dealers have so many plates on hand, that they aren't noticing fast enough. "Say if you had 500 bucks and you lose a dollar or two, you're not going to notice it. If somebody has two bucks and they lose two bucks, they're going to notice it. It's the quantity, it's hard to keep track of that many," Sellers said.

Now he's asking for your help, he said if you see something suspicious, say something. "Specifically neighbors, everybody has that particular neighbor that never wants to license their car on time and plates come on and off of it and if you notice that, specifically you know they don't work for a dealership, but you see a dealer plate on there and most dealership plates are labeled "dealer plate" maybe give somebody a call."

As for the criminals, he said it's just a matter of time until you're caught.
"Whatever they're trying to do is not right. They should figure out something better than that, instead of stealing license plates. They should find jobs or find something that can help them solve their problems, whatever problems they are having," Muganyizi said.

Captain Sellers said car dealerships can protect their property by increasing their security, adding extra lights to the parking lots at night and installing surveillance cameras.

He also warns that if you notice a dealer plate and you think it's suspicious, don't confront the person, it could lead to a dangerous situation. He said the best thing to do is contact local authorities.

"Like" Melina on Facebook and follow her on Twitter to stay connected.