Law enforcement warns of thieves out for your license plate

Published: Apr. 26, 2019 at 6:56 PM EDT
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INDIAN LAND, SC (WBTV) - Last month there were two car break-ins reported to the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office that happened in the parking lot of Lowe’s in Indian Land. In one of those cases, all that was taken was the victim’s license plate.

Sheriff’s deputies say it’s surprisingly not uncommon for tags to be stolen.

“The public would be amazed at how many tags on the backs of automobiles, don’t match those automobiles,” Pubic Information Officer Doug Barfield said. “It’s much more prevalent than people might think.”

Barfield says there are likely many reasons thieves are after a person’s tags. Most commonly is because thieves don’t want to pay the cost to operate a car on the road. To legally get a license plate and decal, South Carolinians must pay their property taxes, have car insurance, and pay a fee for the registration.

“A lot of people have car in the yard that runs and they want to move around so they go and stick a tag on the back of it that comes from who knows where and a lot of times those are stolen tags,” Barfield said.

He says law enforcement also finds people stealing tags to try to disguise themselves when committing another crime. Thieves may put the stolen tag on their own car, commit a crime and when law enforcement runs the tags, they will find it’s registered to someone else.

“Normally when people’s tags are stolen they have no idea who got it, what they’re involved in or what crimes they’ve committed so it leads us down a dead end,” Barfield said.

He says they have trouble tracking down where the tag was stolen from because people don’t typically look to see if their plate is still attached their vehicle. By the time a victim realizes the tag is stolen, they may have stopped at several places before noticing.

If your tag is stolen, file a police report with your local law enforcement agency. According to the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, you will need the police report as proof that your tag was stolen. Without it, you will have to pay a $6 replacement fee.

Barfield advises you to keep an eye on your tags and park in well-lit, populated areas. He says most stolen tags are taken from cars that are broken down and left on the side of the road.

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