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License plate thefts on the rise in the Northland – here’s how to protect your car

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Some residents in the Northland are discovering their cars no longer have license plates.

One man says his plates were taken while his car was parked at a busy shopping center off Barry Road.

“One of the guys in the (carpool) van pulled me aside and goes, 'Hey, did you know you are missing your license plate?' and I was like, 'What?' And sure enough it was gone,” Jason Alexander said.

Transportation officials say often times thieves steal license plates to make themselves harder to track down if they are caught committing a crime.

“That’s the scary thing because it’s a way of stealing your identity. Because if they run the plates, they’ve got your address and everything and then if they’re used in like a robbery or something,” Alexander said.

After filing a police report, Jason said he contacted the Missouri Department of Revenue to get replacement plates. They cost less than $5 and arrived relatively quickly, but he’s not taking any chances with the new set.

“On the new plates I actually bought, they’ve got security bolts that you can put on for your tags, and they have all kinds of different options. So I went with one of those hoping that might deter them,” he said.

As this crime becomes more widespread, hardware stores have been selling a lot more of the tools needed to deter thieves.

“I have a couple different types of security screws. There’s one here, they call it a scanner screw, and basically it has two little holes (on the head),” said Lucas Orozco, assistant general manager at Strasser True Value Hardware in Kansas City, Missouri.

“The other type of screw that I have is called a one-way screw, one-way sheet metal screw, so it has this weird shape in there kind of like an S. You can put this in. You can install it with a flat-head screwdriver, but you can’t take it out,” Orozco explained.

The appeal of these screws is that removing them requires a specialized and more expensive tool than your average screwdriver.

“For one they are really hard to remove. Put those on your licence plate, and you probably won’t have them coming off because nobody is walking around with that tool in their pocket,” he said.

If your license plate is stolen, you should first file a police report then apply for a replacement set through your local DMV office. Each person can get one free replacement set for year, but there is a $3.50 processing fee.

A spokesperson from the Missouri Department of Revenue tells FOX4 that 29,680 people reported stolen plates or tags to the department during the fiscal year 2017.