Licence plate swap surprises Calgary woman after grocery store trip

Click to play video: 'Rising trend of stolen licence plates sparks concern'
Rising trend of stolen licence plates sparks concern
WATCH: A type of crime that appears to be on the rise is not only frustrating drivers but leaving victims on the hook to cover the costs. A Calgary woman discovered she was a victim when her licence plate was swapped for one from a stolen vehicle. As Craig Momney reports, others across the city are reporting it’s happened to them. – Jan 2, 2024

A Calgarian who noticed something was odd about her car hopes to serve as a cautionary tale.

After Emmanuella Anye went grocery shopping, she decided to take a look at her licence plate.

“I heard the day before that someone here had their licence plate stolen, so I checked mine,” she said. “I didn’t think it would be that serious, but it was stolen – it was swapped, actually, not stolen.

“Just very caught by surprise.”

Anye reported it directly to her nearest Calgary Police Service station and she said officers told her they were aware of the tactic.

“They’re like, yeah, I was a swap. And then they immediately ran the plates,” she said, noting police indicated the swapped plate was from a stolen vehicle.

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Click to play video: 'Stolen car hits vehicles and electrical box, knocks out power for some Calgary residents: police'
Stolen car hits vehicles and electrical box, knocks out power for some Calgary residents: police

Having a licence plate swapped can open up a world of challenges for the law-abiding owner/driver of the car that’s had its plate swapped.

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The Edmonton Police Service said when officers identify that a plate on a vehicle is stolen, they can make “tailored decisions” on how to take the suspect into custody to reduce any potential risk to public safety.

And any automated enforcement tickets like photo radar or red light cameras become the responsibility of the plate’s registered owner if the licence plate hasn’t been reported stolen.

“The challenge for our partners in law enforcement is if they see a plate that’s been reported stolen, they have to think that the vehicle itself is probably stolen. And so it opens up a whole host of challenges, not just for law enforcement, but for Albertans and motorists,” Dominic Schamuhn of the Alberta Motor Association said.

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“It creates an environment for Albertans that isn’t welcome. If your plate has been stolen and you’re driving around and you get pulled over, that’s not an experience that anybody wants to have.”

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Edmonton and Calgary police, as well as the Alberta government, recommend drivers immediately report a lost or stolen licence plate to the nearest police station.

In January 2022, the province mandated that lost or stolen licence plates be reported to police before a replacement can be issued from registry agents.

Authorities recommended two strategies to prevent becoming a victim of a plate swap: use of security bolts for licence plates and frequent walk-arounds of the vehicle.

“The public can obtain security bolts for their licence plates from most vehicle parts stores, however they need to ensure the bolts are the same size as the original licence plate bolts,” Calgary police said.

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“We also recommend that people check around their vehicle each time they use it, not just checking if the licence plate is there, but also checking the tires are inflated and no damage to the vehicle.”

After reporting the plate swap to police, Anye took to social media to issue a video warning for Albertans.

“It was just more so a PSA (public service announcement) for everybody to keep an eye out because I didn’t think it would happen to me,” she said

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