COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Since Jan. 1, there have been 202 license plate thefts in Columbus, some destined to be used in a crime, while others are taken for their tags.

“The reason that’s particularly troubling,” said Sgt. James Fuqua of the Columbus Division of Police, “is that we’re talking about only a quarter of the year and we’ve had over 200 license plates stolen off cars.

“That doesn’t count the amount of stolen cars that we’ve had in addition to [that].”

Reasons for plate theft

Thieves steal plates for several reasons, explained Fuqua: “The number one reason that the majority of people take license plates from someone else is to start the commission of a crime.

“They will take a license plate off of your car, attach it to another car — that typically that car itself is stolen — to where they can deceive law enforcement or anyone else to linking that license plate with that particular car. If they are captured, or there is video evidence of them leaving a scene, that license plate is not going to match,” he said.

“Once you report it as stolen, if we run that license plate, it will pop up just as if it was a stolen vehicle,” Fuqua said.

Tag theft

The other reason people steal license plates is to get the tags.

“It’s very important that as part of your daily or weekly maintenance to always look at your tags, to make sure your license plate belongs to you,” Fuqua said. “People will also peel off the registration sticker on the license plate to avoid paying the BMV fees.”

Unfortunately, whether your license plate, your tags, or your entire car has been stolen, you’ll be out money to pay the BMV for new tags and plates.

Switched plates

Criminals will sometimes put a different license plate onto your car after they have stolen your plate. Meanwhile, the license plate that actually belongs on your car is attached to another one — which may be out already committing a crime.

Or, the criminal could be selling your license plate to another person.

Fuqua explained that license plate theft in Columbus isn’t part of an organized criminal effort, but rather individuals seeking to commit crimes.

What do you do next?

First and foremost, contact Columbus Division of Police at (614) 645-4545.

The license plate has to be documented as stolen. Without that, police can’t track your plate or catch the criminal who’s got it.

Step two is to go to the BMV, pay those fees, and get new plates and tags.

“The BMV still wants their money, so you will have to be responsible for obtaining those license plates, the new ones, and whatever fees come with that,” Fuqua said.