LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Temporary paper tags — It seems more often than not, when you hear us tell you about a suspect vehicle used during a crime, we end the description with an almost nullifying “and it had temporary tags.”
Could they be fake? Did the bad guys put them there? Did they take them off and put legit plates on in an attempt to exclude it as a suspect? Was the car stolen?
All of it is up in the air.
“I stopped a car here in front of headquarters with temporary tags. It was fading a little bit. I had a hard time making it out. I’m not talking from the car. I had to get out, walk up to it, to make out what it said,” Little Rock Police Department (LRPD) Lt. Steve McClanahan explained.
The paper plate issued when you buy a car gives you 30 days to get it registered. Is the practice giving bad guys a license to toss up a smoke screen?
The Office of Motor Vehicles is doing what it can to make that harder.
“Since November, we have issued about 23 percent less temp tags because we are monitoring that more closely. I think the people out there understand that we have an eye on this now,” said Wayne Hamric, with the Motor Vehicle Office.
Specifically, keeping an eye on people going over the 30 days and requesting additional temp tags. The state has been linked to a national database clearing cars and owners before a temp tag is issued.
“We can go through, look for direct liens that have been filed, and check with our vehicle information system to see if it’s been stolen anywhere in the country,” Hamric added.
“Before, were people getting tags fraudulently?” KARK’s Bob Clausen asked.
“Yes,” Hamric answered.
“But what about forging the entire tag?”
“We rely on law enforcement to identify those particular temp tags,” Hamric continued.
“Often times, when we describe a suspect vehicle, we see it with temporary tags, or it’s stolen. That is something we run into with these crimes,” said Lt. McClanahan.
So, what is it about a temp tag that compels people to go out and commit crimes? Nothing, unless the mission is to steal enough money to pay the sales tax on your car and get it registered.
Creating a fake tag is not rocket science. First, find the example you’re looking for, make sure it’s the right size, then fix the date. You can get the same bags the DMV uses and there you go. But will they pass the first glimpse?
“You made these?” Lt. McClanahan asks our Bob Clausen. “Probably would not question these if I saw where it expires 5-30-17, I would be [like] okay that’s fine, and again you can see how small it is.”
But driving around with one of these on your car… it’s just a matter of time before police stop you to take a closer look at what’s going on.
One marker curbing forgeries is the square hologram. It can be faked too, which is not demonstrated here, but it is a mark that tells police it’s legit and the clock is ticking.
“And that person still has not registered the vehicle. We contact them and get them involved in the process of getting a permanent tag put on that car,” said Jake Bleed, with the Department Of Finance & Administration.
And there is no gray area.
“It is a crime to drive a vehicle on the street that is not validly licensed. If there is a situation that needs to involve law enforcement, then that is something we can do,” Bleed said.