Criminals steal number plates for various reasons, but primarily to replace the plates on a stolen car, clone a vehicle or conceal their true identity. Owners might receive a fine or penalty for illegal parking, speeding, stealing, or failure to pay a congestion charge, even if they have been nowhere near the area.
Vehicle owners can invest in numerous security devices, from remote locking, auto-tracking, alarms, car steering wheel locks, parking posts, and car dash cameras – but while their vehicle is parked up, the risk of having a number plate stolen remains.
A common issue is petrol theft, where organized criminals target forecourts with insufficient CCTV security, using stolen number plates to avoid prosecution.
Porsche OEM parts specialists Design911 explain how theft-resistant number plates can be an excellent choice, whether you have high-value personalized plates or a popular model more likely to be a victim of cloning.
What Is an Anti-Theft Number Plate?
Standard vehicle registration plates are simply secured with screws. Anybody could remove the plate in around three minutes with the correct tools. In fact, the core aim of a theft-resistant plate is to make it much harder to remove, as thieves will abandon an attempted robbery quickly when they realize they cannot remove the plate quickly enough without attracting attention.
Anti-theft plates are fixed using security screws and anti-theft number plate bolts similar to those used in other applications, such as security screens, steel security doors, and anti-tamper bars used on commercial buildings and vacant properties.
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However, the screws and bolts used in theft-resistant number plates are slightly smaller and specifically engineered for this purpose. Specialist bolts break up, once removed, into four or more pieces, which makes it impossible for anybody to reaffix the same number plate to another vehicle’s bodywork.
Heavy, thick, and bulky fixings are less suitable, as they can crack the number plate and don’t have the same safeguards. However, their engineering design is comparable.
Why Do I Need a Theft-Resistant Number Plate?
Last year, 54,400 number plates were registered as stolen in the UK, as reported by The Guardian. Case studies show that victims may have considerable difficulties in appealing against fines, court orders, or penalties, many of which can be levied without the accused being present.
The best-case scenario is that you have firm evidence of your whereabouts and had reported the number plate as stolen immediately, along with any damage to your car. A crime may already have been committed if your vehicle was targeted overnight, in a public car park, or while you were away for the day.
Potential outcomes include a police investigation if a cloned car has committed a serious offense, attending a court hearing to defend yourself, or incurring costs to appeal against a fixed fine or penalty.
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With the Ultra-Low Emission Zone scheme set to expand in August 2023, charging London drivers up to £12.50 a day, the instances of number plate theft are likely to continue rising. More criminals are expected to attempt to dodge penalties or conceal their identities among a growing number of automatic cameras that focus primarily on number plates.
Car cloning in London rose 857% in 2022, according to Transport for London data, with a 631% spike in penalty charge notice appeals since the first phase of the ULEV scheme was introduced.
These figures demonstrate how prevalent these criminal activities have become and why an anti-theft number plate should be a priority for vehicle owners.
What Should I Do if My Number Plate Is Stolen?
If you have yet to replace your registration number with an anti-theft upgrade or replace standardized screws with theft-resistant bolts, you may find that your number plate has been removed from your vehicle.
Although some drivers are victims of opportunist theft, car cloning gangs will target specific vehicles, usually looking for cars of a similar color, model, and age as their own.
Replacing a number plate may be more costly and complex than many drivers imagine:
- You must produce documents that prove your identity and address, such as a passport, driving license, utility bills, bank statements or national ID card.
- Next, you need evidence that you are the legal owner of the registered vehicle, using a V5C, car tax renewal reminder, SORN declaration, or an electronic number plate authorization certificate.
- Replacement number plates can only be purchased from registered suppliers, and you will need to search for the closest approved dealership through the GOV.UK tool.
- Standard number plates can cost £20 or so. Still, the supplier may charge more, depending on the style and materials used – a very basic number plate may be exposed to further thefts, so it is often not recommended if your vehicle has already been targeted. You may also need to pay installation charges. Fees associated with anti-theft bolts normally double the cost.
Driving a car without number plates is an illegal offense, so you must report the crime to the police and have your documents and crime number with you should a traffic officer stop you in the meantime.
How Can I Swap My Number Plate for an Anti-Theft Version?
There are two ways to add anti-theft security to your number plate, depending on whether you are ordering a new car from a showroom or want to upgrade an existing vehicle.
Most dealerships can add a theft-resistant plate to a new vehicle, although with an additional price uplift. Alternatively, you can source a suitable number plate and fixings from a specialist parts provider; note that number plates and fittings may vary between models and cars of different ages.
It is advisable that you fit a professionally manufactured number plate designed for your vehicle, which complies with the DVLA requirements. Displaying incorrect or defective plates can result in a fine of up to £1,000 and an MOT failure.
The best option is to have a number plate fitted by an authorized dealership. However, if you have an existing number plate and wish to switch the fixings to anti-tamper alternatives, a reputable mechanic can retrofit these for you.