Crime Prevention Tip: Watch for Luxury Vehicles with Paper License Plates

We at the Buzz attend a LOT of neighborhood meetings. It takes a lot of time, but we learn something useful at almost every one.

For example, at a recent Larchmont Village Neighborhood Association meeting on crime and safety in the area, neighbors were alerted to watch for three cars – a 7 Series Black BMW with tinted windows and no plates,  a silver Ford Flex, and a black Ford Focus – that may have been used in recent burglaries.  Another neighbor at that meeting also flagged a black Toyota Camry that may or may not have been involved in a recent crime.  That was all useful information.

But last week, we attended another meeting in the West Adams area (a bit outside our usual coverage boundaries) and learned a bit more about the kinds of vehicles being used in burglaries and other property crimes lately – and not just in one specific neighborhood.

According to LAPD Olympic Division Senior Lead Officer Joe Cirrito (whose recent full-uniform marathon runs you may have read about), many burglaries used to be committed by people driving fairly beat up older cars (Honda Accords, vans, etc.), but many criminals are now hoping to avoid notice by driving much more upscale cars.  In fact, he said, their vehicles of choice are now often brand new luxury vehicles…or slightly older vehicles freshly detailed to look brand new.  And most of them either still have their paper dealer plates, or the owners put fake paper plates over the vehicle’s actual, older license plates.

Cirrito and a neighbor at the West Adams Heights meeting described how two men who had been seen parked in that neighborhood on and off for several days in a shiny Cadillac Escalade SUV were eventually caught by security cameras stealing tools from the neighbor’s truck.

Cirrito emphasized, however, that this wasn’t an isolated incident. He said the same thing has been happening in other neighborhoods throughout the city, so residents should definitely be on the lookout for shiny, new-looking Lexuses, Audis, BMWs and other luxury vehicles they don’t recognize — especially SUVs — and especially vehicles with paper dealer plates.  Also, if you see a vehicle that looks at first to be brand new, but then you realize it’s acutally a few years old and still has a paper dealer plate instead of a regular license, that’s an additional red flag.

If you see such a vehicle parked in your neighborhood, or driving through repeatedly, and you don’t know the driver or who the vehicle belongs to, Cirrito advised reporting it to LAPD and/or your Senior Lead Officer.

Finally, it might be some comfort to note that this may be a somewhat temporary problem, since a new state law, passed in 2016, will do away with paper license plates entirely, starting in 2019.  Until then, however, caution is advised.

[Note:  The Buzz has reached out to Senior Lead Officer Joe Pelayo for an update on the specific vehicles being sought in the Larchmont Village area.  We will update this story with his response when we hear back from him.]

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