A person in a hooded top removes a number plate.

Rising fuel prices lead to increased number plate theft, says SA motoring club

Car theft is hardly something you would ignore, but license plate theft is an entirely different matter.

At a glance, you might not notice they’re gone, especially if they’ve been replaced with another set.

While hundreds of plates are reported stolen each year in South Australia, the Royal Automotive Association said it has noticed an increase over the past 12 months, linking the trend to rising petrol prices.

“We’ve looked at some statistics and…we believe there’s been an increase of about 15% in license plate theft,” said Mark Borlace, RAA’s senior director of auto policy. ABC Radio Adelaide.

“The reason they get knocked down is because [thieves] want their identity hidden.

Thieves affix stolen plates to their vehicles, refuel and drive away without paying.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

Gasoline has become a increasingly valuable commodity in recent monthswith a price spike following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Prices have continued to climb and unleaded is currently hovering around $2.25 a liter in Adelaide.

Mr Borlace said when fuel thieves targeted petrol stations, covering their plates was a way to not only cover their tracks but also create a false trail.

“The reality is that license plates are stolen for many reasons, and one of them is leaking gasoline,” he said.

“If the stolen plates are put on by someone who has a big 4×4 [and] they fill up and leave without paying, it could be a $100 or $200 bill they have left.

“If these license plates are linked to your car, the police will look at this number and come back to you.”

A man with gray hair and wearing glasses and a blue suit jacket stands in front of an electric vehicle charging station.
Mr Borlace says drivers can take simple steps to deter plate thieves.(Supplied: RAA)

A driver notices his neighbor’s license plates on his car

ABC Radio Adelaide listener Alex said his front number plate was recently stolen from his car parked outside his house.

But because the plate was exchanged with another volley, he didn’t notice it initially.

“I didn’t realize they were stolen until I drove it around town and put it in one of those parking lots where you then have to check in to pay your fees,” said he declared.

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