POLICE yesterday confirmed they had noted that criminal elements were stealing number plates from cars.
The criminals, said the police, were stealing number plates from parked vehicles, although many police checkpoints are verifying the registration numbers by cross-checking with the third number plate, affixed to the windscreen.
Some of the criminals were using number plates from vehicles that are non-runners in a bid to evade the on-going operation on unregistered vehicles, the intention being to either evade police check points or to commit crimes.
But others who had let things slip are going through the proper procedures to sort out their vehicles.
Hundreds are visiting police vehicle theft section to have their unregistered cars cleared before going to the Central Vehicle Registry to acquire number plates.
So far this week, vehicle theft section has cleared more than 400 cars as a result of the operation.
Police said a new trend had emerged where criminals were stealing registration number plates. As a result police have issued a warning to motorists to be wary of such activities.
“Due to the on-going police blitz on unregistered vehicles, some unscrupulous individuals are stealing vehicle number plates. Let’s be careful wherever we park our vehicles,” said the police.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said police were still checking more details on such cases, but urged the public to be alert.
“It is an offence for anyone to steal number plates and anyone caught will be dealt with in terms of the law. We urge the public to come forward to report such cases and action will be taken,” he said.
There have been cases where criminals, especially armed robbers, steal vehicles or number plates to commit crimes in a bid to evade being detected and arrested.
Unregistered vehicles and those without number plates are being used as getaway cars in the commission of dangerous crimes, including armed robberies, murder, rape and kidnapping.
In the past, the country had a number plate backlog which led even the honest to drive vehicles without plates.
Ass Comm Nyathi said the police operation had resulted in those with genuine number plates being delayed at roadblocks.
“There are vehicles which are using fake temporary identification certificates, or fake temporary number plates. So, we are verifying. I know there has been an outcry from people saying we have some temporary number plates and we are awaiting the availability of number plates.
“We want to urge motorists to allow police to verify whether a particular vehicle’s papers are genuine or not,” said Ass Comm Nyathi.
He said members of the public should be reminded that temporary number plates are to be used for specific journeys as prescribed by the Vehicle Registration and Licensing Act.
“We are concerned with motorists who are putting old number plates on cars so that they can pass through police checkpoints. The ministry of Transport has made it clear that there are adequate stocks of number plates.
“Temporary number plates are for a specific journey where a car is going to be parked until it is fitted with permanent number plates.
“As outlined in terms of the Vehicle Registration and Licensing Act temporary number plates are not for vehicles to be freely moving around the country. Motorists must take note and comply.”