Maryland's new temporary license tags, which are harder to )) alter and reproduce than the old-style ones, are becoming popular among thieves seeking to pad their supply, authorities say.
Seven people reported their new-style temporary tags lost or stolen in Anne Arundel County from Sunday to Tuesday, and workers at the Motor Vehicle Administration customer service center in Cumberland said they have seen "a noticeable increase" in complaints about stolen temporary tags, according to MVA spokeswoman Marilyn Corbett.
The new tags, which car dealers began passing out Aug. 1, use a hologram and a plastic sheet to protect the expiration date from changes and counterfeiting. MVA officials say the security measures designed to create a more secure registration system and generate revenue for the state agency might be creating a market for tag snatchers.
"There may be some people who want their own supply of temporary tags, and they're beginning to realize that after Jan. 1, the old-style tags will be no good," Corbett said.
The old tags, which were easily reproduced with high-quality color copiers, will be obsolete by the end of the year.
Police said they have had problems in the past with the old-style temporary tags' being stolen from car dealerships. One year, tag thefts from loosely guarded dealerships in Prince George's and Montgomery counties forced the state agency to change its tags in the middle of the year.
The MVA has taken measures to make the dealerships more responsible for the temporary tags, but the security features added to the new tags this year might have moved the thefts away from the dealerships to the street level.
"If the new tags are more difficult to reproduce, then most likely the only sources are to get them from the MVA, the auto dealership or the new cars which they've been assigned to," said Sgt. Jeff Kelly, an Anne Arundel County police spokesman.
Kelly said if the tags are reported stolen to police, they are entered into a nationwide computerized tracking system that immediately identifies them as stolen when an officer checks.
MVA officials are urging victims to immediately report tag thefts to police.
The MVA can issue new paper plates for 15-day tags only. Corbett said those who have had 45-day tags stolen also should notify the car dealership so that the dealership can rush the paper work for the permanent tags.
Until the metal tags arrive, victims should keep copies of the police incident report numbers in their glove compartments, as Daniel Miller did.
"We have to use a piece of cardboard in the back of the car, but the cops will still pull you over," said the Pasadena man, whose temporary tags were stolen overnight Sunday while the car was parked in front of his home on Sherlock Court.
Pub Date: 12/05/96