Highly organised vehicle crime gangs are using falsified car registrations to avoid detection by the police
One in 12 of the 37 million vehicles on UK roads could have cloned registration plates, according to new research.
The vast number of cloned plates, in which a car’s identity is disguised by the false use of an authorised registration or characters amended to a registration that does not exist, are associated with serious criminal activity.
Dr Ken German, a director of the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators (IAATI), who collated figures from various official sources, said that according to the police there are thousands of cloned plates spotted every day by their automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) and CCTV cameras clearly in an attempt (they suggest) to avoid detection when stealing petrol, parking illegally, speeding or committing more serious offences such as burglary or robbery.
About 1.75 million of the 37 million vehicles of all types in the UK (about 32 million of those being cars) are estimated be wearing cloned registration plates.
This is made up of 250,000 vehicles of all types - including cars, motorcycles, HGVs, vans, caravans, motor homes, plant and agricultural machinery - reported stolen last year, plus the 500,000 vehicles written off by insurers.
There are also about a million vehicles still unrecovered from the last decade.
The remainder of the one-in-12 total - about 1.25 million vehicles - is made up of legitimate registrations that have been doctored so they read differently.
More than 100,000 sets of number plates are stolen every year but many more will have been altered with paint, a felt tip pen or black tape to deceive ANPR cameras or witnesses to a crime.