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Mesa dealing with a string of license plate thefts, police say

PHOENIX — Nearly 200 license plate thefts have been reported so far this year in Mesa, according to police.

Mesa police spokesman Steve Berry said thieves are simply roaming through neighborhoods looking to steal plates off vehicles that are not inside a garage.

“Often times they’ll put them onto another vehicle say if they’re going to use that vehicle in a crime,” Berry said.

People are also stealing plates if their own plates are expired.

“Sometimes it’s as simple as, ‘My own license plates expired and I don’t have the money to pay for the registration,’ so, I will steal your license plate that’s got your tags on it and use yours,” Berry said.

Berry said switching plates can be a dangerous situation for officers.

“Often times vehicles with license plates that are on the wrong vehicle are being used for criminal activity,” Berry said. “It can be a little dangerous and tense for everyone involved.”

Driving with fictitious plates is a serious offense and can lead to a probable cause stop.

“If we were to run your license at a traffic stop, and it’s a license plate for a Chevy truck on the back of a Toyota, obviously that raises a great deal of suspicion to the officers making the stop,” Berry said.

For just a few bucks, Berry said you can keep your license plates from thieves.

“If you go to your local auto parts (shop)…you can find screw mechanisms for attaching your license plate that don’t just come off with a regular screwdriver or wrench,” Berry said.

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