Data: License plate thefts up 200 percent in Portsmouth

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The problem appears to only be getting worse.

Since Aug. 1, there’s been 23 reported license plate thefts. There’s been 499 of the same complaints since the beginning of the year, according to police records, compared to 165 reports at this time in 2016.

One of the latest thefts happened on Aug. 3 in Mt. Hermon Village. Curtis Ford Jr.’s Nissan Sentra was targeted overnight on Cutherell Street. Ford’s car was parked between the neighborhood watch office and a sign warning against criminal activity.

“It was shocking,” said Ford. “At night-time if I am not using the vehicle, I take the plates off… and then when I have to use the vehicle, I put them back on. I am doing that until I get secure screws to put on the license plates to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Licence plate thefts have been on the rise since 2014, according to Police Chief Tonya Chapman. The chief told 10 On Your Side in May the thefts could be happening because drivers are trying to avoid paying tunnel tolls.

Chapman also says thieves steal plates to avoid detection when committing other crimes or to place on stolen vehicles.

Chapman says her team has been working with the Jordan Bridge, but they were not having luck working with Elizabeth River Crossings. After our report aired, ERC says they had a meeting with police and even shared requested records.

“We will certainly continue to cooperate with Portsmouth police or any other law enforcement agency to the fullest extent the law allows,” CEO Philip Shucet said over the phone.

Police encourage victims to file a report, get new plates and use a frame that locks with secure bolts.

License plate thefts in Portsmouth
January: 32 (2016: 21)
February: 53 (2016: 12)
March: 98 (2016: 16)
April: 87 (2016: 17)
May: 75 (2016: 24)
June: 68 (2016: 31)
July: 63 (2016: 25)

It’s unclear if police have made any arrests in connection with any of the thefts.