STOLEN VEHICLE PLATES: How to avoid it and what to do if you’re hit
Kampala, Uganda | MOTORING GURU | Motor vehicle registration (number) plates have become a major target of criminals. The goal of the criminals, in most cases, is to extort money from the car owner. It is not unusual to find whole neighbourhoods where the criminals snatch number plates from 50 or more cars in one swoop. They are attacking public gathering, wedding, graduations etc.
Usually, they will hold on to the number plate, demand the extortion fee from the car owner, and reveal the hidden location of the number plate to the car owner upon payment of the extortion fees.
And the extortion fees have been going up. They are also doing it more often. It is not unusual for a car owner to be hit twice or three times in one year.
Why is vehicle number plate theft on the rise?
Vehicle number plate theft is on the rise because the criminals know that getting a replacement is a hassle, expensive, and time consuming. The victim must report the theft to police, then they must publish details of the stolen number plate in the newspapers, the get an assessment form for payment of a motor vehicle registration plate replacement from the Uganda Revenue Authority, pay the money to the bank, return receipts to URA, go to the authorised number plate issuer, pay the fees, wait, the finally get the number place replacement. The fees are about Shs200,000 minius cost of adverts. Many people are not willing to go through the torture. They simply pay the criminals and get their licence plate back. Unfortunately, this emboldens the criminals and explains why the vice is on the rise.
What needs to be done?
By car owners:
- Park in a garage or other secure and well-lit area
- Always report vehicle number plate theft to police. The criminals might use in it for other criminal activity and, if there is no record, the vehicle is regarded as a suspect.
- Secure vehicle number plates more firmly. The current system of using rivets appears to make it easy for the criminals. They have the machines to quickly remove the rivets. So make it tougher.
- Time for number plate anti-theft measures. This vice is global. So look at what other countries use; anti-theft screws are more secure.
- Anti-theft number plates are also available elsewhere. They are designed to shatter into pieces upon removal.
By the government:
- The government can ease process of getting number plate replacement. This could include authorising more agents to issue number plates, removing need for adverts, and waiving the URA fees.