Fake license plates drawn with crayons might not be the best way to avoid a cop encounter

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/12/20/fake-license-plates-drawn-with.html


Everyone’s a critic.

Don’t people carry a spare key so you can lock the car if you leave it running?


I wonder, with the increasing availability of automated license plate readers and supporting infrastructure(near real-time queries of reported thefts or DMV records of make/model/color for a given license plate number, correlation of location and timestamp data between a number of LPRs in different places for movement tracking, that sort of thing), what the cost/benefit trade-off looks like for fakes of varying levels of quality.

At the 'awful fake or plats just missing/covered end of the spectrum you presumably run the highest risk human detection and report, as well as potential challenge in places like toll booths where a readable license plate is explicitly checked for. On the other hand you certainly won’t be caught by an LPR hit for a stolen vehicle, or necessarily detected at all by LPRs that focus narrowly on license plates they can read and ignore anything that isn’t a license plate to avoid false positives caused by mere bad angle or bit of road dirt.

As one gets progressively higher quality, vulnerability to casual human observers decreases; but the odds that your license plate will be detected as one and automatically checked for discrepancies or flags in the system presumably rises(with just using the real plate having perfect resistance to discrepancy checks, since it’s real, but maximum risk of being flagged as stolen; while a different license plate or excellent replica of a genuine plate has greater risk of being flagged for discrepancies with the actual make/model/color of vehicle it is associated with, or for being in two places at the same time or the like).

What I really don’t know is how comprehensive the coverage of automated systems is, and how aggressively their warnings are followed up on vs. being tuned out as noise they are, and so where one would rather accept more of one type of risk than the other.

It could also depend on who and where you are: if you are a black guy driving a car or in a neighborhood that defies obsesrvers demographic expectations you might be better off with a very high quality imitation because people will call the cops on you with low provocation; while the clean-cut white guy might get a very charitable ‘eh. probably just dealer/temp plates’ interpretation of even a shoddy fake; but very much not want to risk running a stolen plate past a bit that knows only OCR and string matching.

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They can charge him with Crayon Theft Auto.

(I’m here all week, folks. Try the steaks.)


I’ve never understood the whole temporary sticker issue with new cars in the US. Here in BC, you buy the car and the insurance agent comes to the dealership with your new, permanent licence plates and insurance paperwork. A mechanic puts the plates on your new car, you sign your life away for the purchase and insurance, get in and drive home.


I’ve seen videos showing how easy it is to pop a car door lock. If the car is already running with the key in the ignition, that’s one less car they have to hot wire.

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I’ve heard it said that criminals get caught becasue the majority of them are far from being masterminds. Welp:

Well, the majority of the ones that get caught anyway.


Successful criminals raid pension funds and shop for political favors from Ukraine.


The USA Today article links to this:


Nine times out of ten you’ll get away with it, but god help you if you’re stopped by a Kindergarten Cop.


It’s still easier if you leave the door unlocked and running.


True. And sitting in a running car won’t stop you from being carjacked for much the same reason. A running car is easier to use to quickly drive away from the scene of the crime.

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There are some really bad license plate designs out there, in terms of the contrast between the plate background and the numbers. I would think that making a color copy of such a plate design, then putting numbers on it with just a bit less contrast could manage to both fool a human and avoid recognition by a LPR. Maybe.

A manual transmission is better theft prevention than a car alarm these days.


Yup. I have seen cops stare at me because they are convinced I am on the phone, only to realize that I am driving a manual. Most people haven’t got a clue.


I have seen them using motorbike police for this purpose. They overtake the car on a freeway and use their higher perspective (because of their seating position) to look inside for a phone.


Here in BC, you buy the car and the insurance agent comes to the dealership with your new, permanent licence plates and insurance paperwork

The way it seems to work here in Victoria, Australia, is that the dealer gets a consecutive block of plates, which they just screw on to the cars as they get registered. I assume they have an API, or at least a streamlined process for registration as well.

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Alternatively, you use your old plates and just transfer insurance from one vehicle to another. Dealers have their own.

There are temporary ones however. It’s a piece of paper issued by ICBC for short-term insurance. It goes in the back window. In other words, we absolutely have a “temporary sticker” that is probably easier to duplicate.


I really thought this was going to be a story about a “sovereign citizen,” but somehow this guy is even dumber.

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You’re absolutely correct. The caveat is that you must tape it to the inside of the rear window and the police more carefully scrutinize those vehicles to make sure the permit isn’t expired. They are relatively uncommon too.

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Where I live (in the US), you have 30 days to change registration of your plates from an old car to a new car. I just take my old plates and bolt them onto the new car. Then, I just have to make sure I get the forms filled out and into the DMV in less than a month. I don’t think many people know that, or it would be much more common.


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