Kern County Sheriff’s deputies are investigating a string of license plate thefts throughout Bakersfield and one Oildale neighborhood was hit hard. Officials say in just two weeks 33 license plates were stolen.
Alex Alcarez woke up early to go to his dialysis appointment but when he and his son got ready to drive off; he noticed someone had stolen his license plates off his vehicle parked in his driveway.
It was a brazen move for the thief but the sheriff's office tells 23ABC it’s becoming common.
“All over the unincorporated areas of Bakersfield there has been a 71% increase of vehicle license plate thefts,” said Ashley Glover, Sheriff’s Crime Prevention Specialist.
Glover says they specifically noticed a spike in license plate theft in Oildale.
A total of eight thefts were reported in Oildale in 2015 and already thirty-three reported in 2016.
“It becomes an inconvenient and costly hassle for vehicle owners,” said Glover.
"You have to go through the process of reporting that to the DMV and then you actually have to pay a fee for the replacement license plate," said Glover.
The sheriff's office recommends you install a one-way anti-theft screw specially designed for vehicles.
The Kern County Sheriff’s Office Crime Prevention Unit has provided the following tips to help prevent and deter license plate thefts:
- Always park in a garage or secured area. Any vehicle left parked outside is an easier target for theft. The safest place for one’s vehicle will always be in a closed or locked garage.
- If parking in a garage is not an option, park in well-lit, well-populated areas. If possible park in the driveway of a well-lit residence that is visible to homeowners. Motion activated lights are also recommended for driveways.
- Install anti-theft, one-way screws into the license plate of your vehicle. Anti-theft license plate screws are designed to allow anyone to use a screwdriver to put the plates on with the screws, but require a specialized tool to take off. These screws can be purchased at most hardware stores.
- Most criminals commit crimes in neighborhoods where they feel unseen – thus why most vehicle vandalisms occur at night. The Sheriff’s Office coordinates over 90 neighborhood watch groups. Starting or revitalizing a neighborhood watch group can help residents to work cohesively as a street or block to address issues such as: removing visual barriers (shrubbery, hedges, etc.), add or improve lighting, install security cameras, and use the strengths of each neighbor on their block to help prevent crime. Many neighborhood watch groups will ask the night owls, night shift workers, late night smokers, etc. to help keep an extra set of eyes on vehicles and property when most people are asleep.
- Remove old registration tags before applying current tags. Clean the license plate before applying new tags. After current tags have been applied, use a razor blade or sharp edge to slice a thin “X” into vehicle tags. They will still remain on the vehicle, but if a criminal tries to steal the license plate for the purpose of reselling the tags they will come off in pieces and will not be usable.
- Check your rear license plate often. If stolen or damaged report it to law enforcement and the DMV immediately.
Regular screws used on most cars use a Philips head screwdriver, the anti-theft screws require a flathead screwdriver, making it hard for most crooks to steal it.
You can purchase the one-way anti-theft screws for license plates at most hardware stores.
If you have been the victim of license plate crime, the sheriff's office will mail you these special screws for free.
If a resident of the unincorporated metro Bakersfield area has previously been or becomes the victim of a license plate theft, the Crime Prevention Unit will provide a set of (2) free anti-theft screws to the resident.
Please email crimeprevention@Kernsheriff.com and include resident name, sheriff report number, and address to be mailed complimentary anti-theft, one-way screws. Available only while supplies last.