License plate theft in Houston on the rise after statewide changes, police say

Chaz Miller Image
Thursday, April 20, 2023
License plate theft on the rise after statewide changes, HPD says
Police advise car owners to regularly check their vehicles to ensure both of their plates belong to their car and are attached to the vehicle. Here's what to do if it happens to yo

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Police told ABC13 they're noticing an uptick in the number of license plates being stolen from vehicles across the city as a result of statewide changes to paper plates.

Those changes were intended to make paper ones harder to forge, which criminals were regularly doing to commit crimes with untraceable license plate numbers.

RELATED: Fake paper plates causing real problems on the road and costing Texas millions

Statistics from the Houston Police Department show there were 516 license plates stolen in the first three months of this year, as compared to 355 during the same stretch in 2022.

"We haven't seen a huge spike yet, but we are seeing it trending upwards," HPD Sgt. Tracy Hicks said. "We are going to keep an eye on it."

Hicks said some of that increase could also be attributed to factors such as population growth and more cars on the road.

"This crime's been around a long time," he said.

He explained that criminals will steal a vehicle and sometimes swap those plates out with the ones on your car if they look similar.

"That's dangerous," Hicks explained. "I mean, can you imagine (being pulled over) because those officers think you're driving a stolen car?"

Hicks also said they might just steal one of your plates, which is why it's important to regularly check your vehicle to ensure both of your plates belong to your car and are attached to the vehicle.

He recommends filing a police report and getting new plates if either of yours is missing or replaced.

"Just go to the Department of Motor Vehicles," he said.

Hicks added that bringing the report to the DMV will prevent you from paying full price for your replacement license plate.

Additionally, they do make tamper-proof screws for plates that you can purchase online in order to make yours harder to steal.

"There are things you can do to prevent yourself from becoming a victim," Hicks emphasized.

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SEE ALSO: Texas lawmakers look to eliminate temporary paper plates in effort to prevent fraud