The plunge in the price of oil has wreaked havoc on Alberta’s economy, and most residents of the province aren’t surprised to learn that certain crime rates have been spiking over the past year. Specifically, license plate theft rates are rising throughout the province, especially in Calgary, where Global News reported an 80 percent year-over-year increase from 2014 to 2015.
Protecting your license plate is a very important step to take if you own a vehicle, and there are simple and effective measures you can use to avoid becoming a victim. It’s also important to know what to do if your license plate is stolen, as significant complications can arise if you do not report the event to the relevant authorities.
Why Do Thieves Steal License Plates?
The main reason thieves target license plates is so that they can affix them to their own vehicles while committing other crimes. This reduces the chances of their vehicle being associated with the crime, which in turn makes it less likely that they will be caught and charged for their wrongdoings. Calgary police theorize that criminals active in the city’s drug trade are primarily responsible for the sharp rise in license plate thefts.
How to Protect Your Vehicle
In Edmonton, police have offered unique anti-theft screws to the public free of charge; these screws make it difficult for a criminal to quickly steal a license plate, making it more likely that they will move on to an easier target. While a similar program is not yet offered in Calgary, police there have been considering introducing one to combat the rising license plate theft rates.
Regardless, anti-theft screws are widely available through auto accessory retailers and form an effective line of defense against license plate theft. Police also urge vehicle owners to reduce their risk by following these guidelines:
- Always park in a well-lit area
- Whenever possible, park in an area with a relatively high volume of vehicular and/or pedestrian traffic
- Regularly check your license plate to make sure it’s secure
- Avoid backing into spaces in parking lots, as this can make it easier for thieves to go unseen
What to Do if Your License Plate Is Stolen
If your license plate is stolen, you should immediately report the theft to the police. They will inform you of the next steps to take, which involve contacting the Alberta Ministry of Transportation.
Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of what you’ll need to do if your plates are stolen:
- Contact the police. Do not call 911, since a license plate theft is not an emergency; rather, call your local police department’s non-emergency line. In Calgary, the phone number is 403-266-1234; in Edmonton, call 780-423-4567.
- Obtain a police report detailing the circumstances of the theft, and certifying that you have filed a complaint with local law enforcement.
- Report the theft to your local Ministry of Transportation or Service Alberta office. Bring a copy of the police report with you, in case the agent requests it for your file.
- Get a temporary plate and/or temporary license tag from the Ministry of Transportation or Service Alberta. Be sure to keep it in plain view while driving.
- Keep a copy of the police report in your vehicle to show any traffic officers who may stop you for appearing to drive without a plate in the days following the theft.
- Obtain new license plates from the Ministry of Transportation, and use anti-theft screws to securely attach them to your vehicle.
More rarely, registration stickers are stolen instead of plates. People usually do this when their own plates have expired and they want to avoid the expense of renewing them. It isn’t a wise move on their part, but it happens, so contact Service Alberta if you are affected.
On the subject of auto theft, it’s also a good idea to review safety guidelines for parkades and effective strategies for preventing car theft. Your Calgary auto insurance rates may rise if your car is stolen, so it’s in your best interests to be proactive about protecting yourself.
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