UK Plagued by Record levels of Stolen Number Plates

Rise in "Car Cloning" Warrants Total Overhaul of Car Number Plate System, Police Say

Police estimate that 2006 saw the theft of over 40,000 sets of Number Plates, a figure that represents a rise of 25% over the year before.

Because of this sharp increase in Car Number Plate theft, the Association of Chief Police Officers wants to scrap the present system entirely.

APCO is advocating for all cars to be fitted with tamper-proof plates, and for a central issuing body to issue all registration numbers.

According to John Wake, Superintendent of APCO’s Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service, the service is no longer confident that the DVLA can fight Car Number Plate theft and cloning.

"I don't have confidence that beyond that you can identify that that vehicle is the legitimate vehicle for that plate."

The DVLA is mulling a rule change that would require all 1.3 million motorcycles in the UK to switch to Number Plates containing electronic tags, which are currently undergoing tests.

There are no solid figures for 2007, but the BBC quotes AA’s Paul Watters as saying that the number of cloned Number Plates "seems to be on a roll and we need to start taking some action to look at the innocent motorist who may fall victim to some of the issues which follow up the theft of a Car Number Plate."

According to police, one reason for the sharp rise in cloned or stolen Number Plates is the increase in the use of speed cameras, which rely on computer records to match an offending car with a given owner.

In its simplest form, cloning entails the use of stolen plates to evade speed cameras or avoid fees when driving through a Congestion Charge Zone.

In its more sinister form, stolen Number Plates are used to enable car thieves to pass off a vehicle to an unsuspecting buyer.

A spokeswoman for the DVLA told the BBC that the DVLA routinely works with police in support of anti-vehicle crime efforts.

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