Registration stickers & License plate theft epidemic

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Vehicle License Plate sticker

Every year honest car owners renew their vehicle registration plate sticker by paying the renewal fee and getting a new sticker for another year. This sticker should be put on your back license plate and it is illegal to drive a vehicle without a valid sticker.

To replace a sticker most of us simply clean off the surface of the previous sticker by just rubbing it with a piece of cloth (or worse, and it would be me, with a piece of toilet paper) and put the new one on the top of it, thus creating with years a stack of stickers. We just presume that all people in the world are as honest and law obedient as we are. Well, not really….Registration stickers theft is growing and the way we usually put a new sticker on our license plate makes it easier for a thief to just tear off the stack and use it for his car, or maybe even sell it to someone else who wants to be “smart” by breaking the laws.  It saves them lots of money, since they avoid paying the renewal fee (which goes up several dollars every year). The thieves probably repeat this process every year, as they get away with this easily, unless they are stopped by police for some other reason and the ownership validation sticker number is checked against the number of the sticker on the license plate.  

Read the story Reuven has to tell.

The mystery criminals

Drew and I had a lot of plans that day. We were going to go to the bank, get some pizza, clean our apartment and then go to work for the Milwaukee Admirals hockey team.  Instead, we visited the local police station, drove to Milwaukee’s Southside, and said a lot of naughty words. Seems unexpected?

Unexpected was walking outside to my car, and hearing Drew say: “Ooo this isn’t good. Come look at this.”  Drew was missing a quarter of his license plate!

I quickly turned to look at my car, which was parked next to Drew’s and found that the last six years of registration stickers were missing. It now read March 2005.

We may not live in the nicest area in Milwaukee, but so far our apartment on Marquette University’s campus has been crime free. We quickly walked over to the police station (50 feet away) and notified them about the hungry criminals. As it turns out, “license plate crimes” are so common; the police does not take reports about them. Instead, we had to visit the DMV on Milwaukee’s Southside. (Interesting fact: it is located next to a Chuck E Cheese). Drew had to pay $9 for a new license plate while I was able to get a new registration sticker for free.

The next night I came home for a message from Drew that read: “They got your plate.” I ran downstairs to find out that the hungry criminals came back. It was midnight, and I was very surprised that they came at such an early hour. I notified Marquette’s Public Safety who quickly responded by documenting the incidents and pushing more public safety vehicles to this area.

Reuven's circumcised license plate

Crime prevention TIPS

There are some adjustments you can make to avoid this type of crime:

  • When you receive new renewal stickers, place them in the center of the plate (upper or lower edge). It’s much harder to clip the plate if the stickers aren’t in the corner.
  • Purchase a metal license plate frame to protect against clipping of the corner of the plate
  • Prior to adhering a new sticker to your plate, remove the built up stack of old stickers. Fewer stickers in a stack make theft more difficult.
  • Protect the stack of stickers by taking a razor blade and running a combination of 6-9 deep vertical and horizontal cuts through the stack. This way, if someone tries to peel off the sticker, they will only get a useless portion of the sticker. The thief will then give up.

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Comments 10 comments

sjk6101983 profile image

sjk6101983 6 years ago from Milwaukee, WI

First of all, Reuven, since you were by the DMV on the South side, you've came over and said "Hi!" since I live about six blocks away. :)

Next, this came from my MATC email about a week after Drew and Reuven's incident:

"MATC StudentServices

Over the past two weeks, there has been an increased number of thefts at the Milwaukee Campus, 6th & Wells Street parking structure. The incidents involve vehicle registration decals being removed from vehicles parked in the structure. We have had no reports of theft from persons or entry into vehicles and do not believe these incidents pose an immediate threat to those who park in the structure.

The Department of Public Safety is working closely with local law enforcement to both prevent the incidents and to apprehend a suspect. Police and Public Safety patrols have been increased in the structure and surrounding area. We encourage all members of the MATC community to report any suspicious activity to the Department of Public Safety (297-6200) as soon as possible..."

Newsflash, MATC, it's still stealing!

Bail Up ! profile image

Bail Up ! 6 years ago

I should definitely know better but I'm guilty of piling up the vehicle regristration stickers too. I"ll keep this info in mind upon renewal.

sheila b. profile image

sheila b. 6 years ago

I never thought about how the stickers stuck on top of eachother become easier to get off. I'll take your advice when I get my new ones.

ReuVera profile image

ReuVera 6 years ago from USA Author

Sarah - Sorry I missed ya. "Hi"

Bail Up & Sheila - I never thought about it either, but it definitely helps the criminals. Also, don't forget to cut the sticker into little squares. :)

anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 6 years ago

What a story--thieves are getting desperate. Sorry about Reuven's license plate. Love your tips and the last one made me laugh--smart talking. Rated up.

ReuVera profile image

ReuVera 6 years ago from USA Author

Thanks for your constant support, Angeline!

sjk6101983 profile image

sjk6101983 6 years ago from Milwaukee, WI

Reuven - don't get me singing the Beatles' "Hello, Goodbye" on your mom's Hub here! we'll save that for when school starts. :)

ReuVera profile image

ReuVera 6 years ago from USA Author

Sarah, this is my Hub.


john 6 years ago

chopping of hands of the thieves should solve it quickly

Jackie 5 years ago

Wow I had no idea this was going on. Im definitely going take your advice. Some people are just ridiculous!!

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