License plate theft an increasing crime

The Florida A&M University Police Department is encouraging students to pay a little more attention to their license plates.

Police around the state have seen an increase in the number of license plate thefts, and they are pretty sure it has something to do with the high price of gasoline.

The thieves often steal the original plates and replace them with other ones, FAMU PD Crime Prevention Officer Sherri Luke said.

Then, they will put the victim’s plates on the back of a different car and steal gasoline. That way, if there is a security camera present, the video will be of the victim’s plates on the back of a car instead of the thief’s.

Stealing gas is a misdemeanor in the state of Florida but turns into a felony if more than $300 worth of gas is stolen.

So far FAMU has not had any reports of license plate thefts, but FAMU PD is trying to spread the word before it does become a problem.

“It works because very few people actually get out and look at their tag,” Luke said.

“Therefore, they don’t know their tag is stolen until the police department is asking why they stole the gas.”

There is an easy way to keep from becoming a victim, she said. “We’re asking everybody to get out there and look at their license plates.”

For students, the solution seems easy, but it’s not something they say they pay much attention to.

“I don’t usually go out and make sure it’s there, but it looks like I should,” said Andrew Pierre, a senior biology student from Fort Lauderdale. “That’s a new one. I’ve never heard of that happening.”

Pierre said it’s easy to know what to look for. “I have a FAMU tag, so my tag number is not very hard to remember.”

Thomas Bridges, a 21-year-old mathematics education student from Orlando, agreed with Pierre.

“I don’t regularly check my license plate to make sure it’s still there. I just have the feeling or notion that it should still be in place when I get in the car.” Bridges said. “But I know my tag number by heart, so I would know if something was missing.”

Some students might not know their information, however.

Tamera Brown, 21, a junior criminal justice student from Bradenton, has never given much thought to her license plate and does not know her tag number.

“I just assume that it’s there, especially since I don’t ever get pulled over,” Brown said.

To make things a little more complicated, Brown does not have a specialty tag. “It’s just a regular old Florida tag,” she said. “I definitely would not know it by the number, but probably by the sticker because it has my birthday on it.”