Stolen license plates become Fresno crime trend, police say

With a visit to the DMV now taking four hours to a whole day, police are warning drivers to take precautions to prevent the theft of a rear license plate, a crime trend picking up speed in the Fresno area.

The stolen plates are in demand by thieves, especially drug users, according to Police Chief Jerry Dyer, who said a current DMV tag can be bartered to a drug dealer for about $25 in methamphetamine. As the price of registrations rise, others may simply want a contraband tag to keep driving without risking a traffic stop.

It has become common from many drivers to use a razor blade to score the registration tag on their car or truck to prevent a crook from peeling off the tag in one section. But police are noticing that thieves have started stealing the entire plate. Then, they can peel of the sticker at their leisure.

In addition to the time and frustration of waiting for the new plate to arrive, the DMV says there is a $21 replacement cost for the plate, and another $21 for the sticker.

It’s possible to deter the theft of the plate by a visit to a local hardware store that sells the type of screws that can’t be undone with a common screwdriver. Two of those include one-way screws, which can be easily tightened, but are difficult to remove, and Torx screws, which require a relatively uncommon six-point driver to tighten and remove the fasteners.