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Curlz
08-14-2018, 12:54 PM
It's a device often used in crime fiction and movies, but I've been wondering how real it is. So, somebody steals a car and doesn't want the police to know it's stolen. They take off their own numberplates and steal numberplates from somebody else's car, and put them on theirs. Now the stolen car drives around with somebody else's numberplates. But wouldn't the police notice that there is a discrepancy between car and numberplates? If a policeman checks the numberplates in their computer, wouldn't the computer records show what make the car is? Hey, numberplate XYZZZZZ belongs to a Toyota Corolla not a Chevrolet Pickup! And that person is still busted, right? So why bother in the first place. Or...?

Helix
08-14-2018, 01:10 PM
If automated registration plate recognition is a possibility, then all they have to do is nick plates from a car similar to their stolen vehicle.

Otherwise, if it's just Plod sans automation, then don't give the cops a reason to run a check.

neandermagnon
08-14-2018, 04:58 PM
If it's like the UK system, then yes the police could easily spot the discrepancy in the make, model or colour of the car. The DVLA has all the data that's on your car log book/ownership document, and the police can access it all through their computer system, which reads the number plates of cars that drives past and flags them up (e.g. as stolen, wanted, lack of insurance, etc). All of what's visible from a police car as you drive past (make, model, colour) needs to match, though I'm sure cops don't check that on every single car that drives past. But if your story requires the car thief to be caught that way, it's totally plausible.

If your story requires the car thieves to escape detection then they have to be very sophisticated about it.


If automated registration plate recognition is a possibility, then all they have to do is nick plates from a car similar to their stolen vehicle.


They'd also have to be sure that the stolen plates have up-to-date tax, MOT and insurance as well. And if they have all that, the car's regularly on the road. So it won't be long before the driver notices that someone's stolen their number plates and reports that to the police. Meaning their computer system's going to have the stolen number plate down and it'll flag the car up for that. If the theives steal plates from a car that's off the road, then the police computer's going to flag it down for not having tax, MOT or insurance. If they steal plates from a car that's off the road that's the right make, model and colour then pay for the tax, MOT and insurance, that might work, but paying for stuff defeats the purpose of thieving.

Helix
08-14-2018, 05:09 PM
That's why you don't sit on stolen plates. Just take them as you need them. If someone's at work, you've got a few hours before the plates are reported stolen. If the owner's on holidays, you've got a lot more time.

And -- depending on what you want them for -- you don't necessarily have to steal both plates. One is often sufficient.

Having said that, most crims are not masterminds.

cbenoi1
08-14-2018, 06:48 PM
But wouldn't the police notice that there is a discrepancy between car and number plates?

Not if it's the same car make, model, and color. Depends on how smart (or stupid) your thief is.

You'd have to go as far as read the serial number on the windshield and look it up in a database. But who does that?

-cb

cmhbob
08-14-2018, 07:03 PM
That's why you don't sit on stolen plates. Just take them as you need them. If someone's at work, you've got a few hours before the plates are reported stolen. If the owner's on holidays, you've got a lot more time.

And -- depending on what you want them for -- you don't necessarily have to steal both plates. One is often sufficient.

And if your state uses two plates, the front one is the one most commonly stolen. Most people don't pay attention to the front of their car, and a missing front plate isn't going to automatically draw a cop's attention like a missing back plate would.

Stolen plates aren't so much for the cops as they are for the civilians. If a Good Samaritan writes down a tag that ultimately proves to be stolen, that's another couple of hours of wasted time for the cops.

Plus, stolen car information includes make/model/color/tag. If the cops are looking for a red Pontiac Bonneville with Oklahoma tag ABC-1234, they're not going to look twice at a red Pontiac Bonneville with Arkansas tag 123-ABC.

ironmikezero
08-14-2018, 10:44 PM
Not if it's the same car make, model, and color. Depends on how smart (or stupid) your thief is.

You'd have to go as far as read the serial number on the windshield and look it up in a database. But who does that?

-cb

In the U.S. most street savvy cops routinely do that at a traffic stop. The VIN is recorded on the registration documentation required to be carried in the vehicle. VINs encode a lot of vehicle info that can be crosss-checked via NLETS.

http://itlaw.wikia.com/wiki/National_Law_Enforcement_Telecommunications_System

https://www.searchquarry.com/vin-decoder/

WeaselFire
08-14-2018, 11:25 PM
It's a device often used in crime fiction and movies, but I've been wondering how real it is.

Here in Florida, it's not uncommon. Bending a plate or covering it with mud are other tactics used here. It depends on how sophisticated the criminal is and what they want the stolen car for. Most are kids who steal a car to commit a crime and then ditch the car. They never bother with plates. The most common plate swapping is a guy steals a $25,000 car, steals plates and swaps them, then makes up a sob story about medical bills, sick mother, whatever and sells the car for $500. Somebody always pays cash and drives it until the thief mails the promised paperwork. Or, more likely, they get stopped.

Jeff

Jason
08-15-2018, 12:41 AM
I read a story a while back (not sure how much validity there is to it) where a criminal wanted some stolen tags so went to the long term lot of an airport park-n-ride and took the plates off like four vehicles there and rotated them while on his killing spree.

MaeZe
08-15-2018, 12:46 AM
The idea is the plates don't come back on the list of stolen cars the police have on their active BOLOs (be on the look out for).

If the cop actually stops the car for some reason, the plates won't match the registration. Changing plates isn't meant as a thorough disguise, only as one to hide a stolen car a cop passes on the road.

Also, as Jason noted above, eye witnesses would be writing down the license plates of a car that would lead to a dead end.

jclarkdawe
08-15-2018, 05:10 AM
Swapping plates is an old idea and worked better in the past than it does now. The question, though, is what you're trying to do and/or hide.

Long-term parking is a wonderful place for bad guys. Watch someone come in and borrow their car for a few days and return it with the original parking ticket. Chances of getting caught are very low.

Jim Clark-Dawe