Rockford police want you to keep an eye open for an Illinois license plate. Yours.
Criminals are using stolen plates as cover-ups.
"They're happening all over. They're happening in parking lots, where people are either working or visiting. But they're also taken right from people's driveways," says Lieutenant Pat Hoey of the Rockford Police Department.
That goes on 3 or 4 times a week on average in Rockford. The quicker you notice a missing plate on your car and report it the better.
"Because we know there's a potential for that plate to be used in another criminal offense. We try to get those entered as soon as possible," says Hoey.
That's just what one area woman did. Someone stole hers while she was at work Tuesday. The plates were used in a crime the same day.
Investigators say 20-year old Marcello Brown and 28-year-old Mark Grayned led officers on a chase from Boone County to Loves Park with those stolen plates attached to their vehicle.
The pursuit finally ended when the car crashed, and one of the suspects jumped into the Rock River.
"So if someone's going to do a string of thefts or robberies, a lot of times they'll just steal a license plate, and if they're really good they'll steal a license plate of the same make and model of the car they're going to use," says Hoey.
Nicole DePaul lives in downtown Rockford. She says she sometimes worries her plates could be stolen.
"I think it could just be pulled off because it's plastic where it's screwed in," she says. So she checks her vehicle often, looking for signs of theft.
"When I walk out of the building it's the first thing I do is see if my license plate is there, if my doors are open," says DePaul.
There are special license plate covers available online that claim to prevent theft. Lt. Hoey says anything that makes it more difficult for a criminal to get to your plates can keep crooks from targeting your vehicle.
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