Updated:SANFORD, Fla. —
Seminole County police said driver's license plates are being stolen and used to help crooks commit other crimes.
Tag thieves hit a parking lot in Sanford just this week.
License plates help tell police who should and should not be driving a car. If a legitimate tag falls into the hands of someone who wants to commit a crime, they can become very hard to track.
Disabled veteran James Boatright just spent $800 for new tires on his van.
His car is still sitting on its rims after it and several others in a lot were hit by tire-slashing vandals.
"All four of my tires were flat … my license plate was gone, looked like somebody tried to break into my truck," Boatright said.
Police said as frustrating as tires are to fix, the stolen plates are even more alarming.
Sanford Police Capt. James McAuliffe said it could be the work of a car thief who is using a car of a similar make.
"His tag is now hot, so he gets rid of that tag and puts your tag on, which gives him so many hours of driving around," McAuliffe said.
Eyewitness News crunched the numbers with Sanford PD and found that there have been 72 reports of license plate theft since the beginning of the year.
That averages out to one being swiped every other day.
Police said a tag could be used in a crime to conceal the identity of a getaway car before the driver even notices it's gone.
Police said the reason criminals target plates is because of how easy they are to take with a few quick turns of a screwdriver.
Channel 9 was told that is what happened at a Christmas Eve shootout and crash along I-4.
The driver of the car was shot by someone driving down the interstate who got away and has never been caught because he used a stolen license plate.
"Two screws and it's gone," McAuliffe said.
Boatright had his replaced right away, but his neighbor's plate could be anywhere.
Police said a lot of this is happening while people are home because it's so easy.
Their advice is to attach the plate with all four points instead of just the top two.