Caught on video: Thieves steal license plates to commit break-ins, rack up tolls on Bay Area roads

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ByDion Lim via KGO logo
Wednesday, August 31, 2022
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License plate thefts are on the rise in the Bay Area, and oftentimes the stolen plates are used in shocking crimes, caught on camera.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- License plate thefts are on the rise, according to one Bay Area law enforcement agency -- and oftentimes the stolen plates are used in shocking crimes, caught on camera.

A stolen vehicle license plate from San Jose, was spotted being used in a car break-in in San Francisco near the winding part of Lombard Street Sunday evening. After ABC7 News anchor Dion Lim posted the video on her Instagram, a follower sent her a photo showing her mom's vehicle, bearing the very same plate.

Stealing plates is a crime on the rise. South San Francisco police say a 33-year old woman was arrested after being seen on multiple surveillance videos, unscrewing plates along a residential street and switching them to other vehicles in what's called 'cold-plating.'

EXCLUSIVE: Presumed thief leaves flyers on SF cars asking for money so they can stop 'stealing'

"It's frustrating in that it cost me a lot of money and time," says Isabel Grotte, a real estate agent who had her back plate stolen during the height of the pandemic. In her case, the plate wasn't used on a vehicle to commit break-ins.

"The people who took my plate out put it on a vehicle and crisscrossed the Bay Area for months and cost thousands of dollars in tolls."

Months of headache and $2,000 in toll fines could have been prevented with a simple device. One that Jason Young, owner of Bob's Auto Service in San Francisco, helps his customers with at least once a week.

Tamper-proof license plate screws, according to Jason, are well worth the investment.

VIDEO: Car break-ins on the rise across the Bay Area; how some are 'risking it all' to avoid it

"Put on easy, just with special tool, just order it online just maybe 10 bucks!" He says, while showing us how simple the process can be.

Shortly after her ordeal Isabel herself had those special screws installed.

"I did take action! Hah, it's a good idea," she says.

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