Tightening the Screws on plate theft

On the surface number plate theft may not appear to be an important issue, but a closer look reveals that its impact is far-reaching.

Not only does the theft of number plates cause great inconvenience to victims, plates are often stolen to facilitateother crimes such as petrol theft, robberies, house break-ins, drug trafficking, avoiding camera-based traffic infringements and toll evasion.

Police are also reporting an increased detection of cloned plates. When the identity of the vehicle is concealed, it makes it a lot harder for police to detect, investigate and solve crimes.


The NMVTRC’s CARS team has been collecting data on number plate theft in Victoria since July 2018.  A first look at the data shows that in 2018/19, there were 16,921 number plates stolen in Victoria. This is higher than the number of motor vehicles stolen in Victoria during the same period.Other findings from the data include:

  • More than half (58 per cent) of all number plate theftsinvolved both front and rear plates being stolen.
  • Almost all of the number plates were stolen from registered vehicles (16,909). Of these, 97 per cent were Victorian registered plates.
  • 94 per cent of number plates were stolen from passenger/light commercial vehicles (PLCs). This proportion of PLC plates stolen is higher than the proportion of PLC vehicles stolen (83 per cent) in Victoria.
  • Number plate thefts are significantly over represented amongst small passenger vehicles (39 per cent of PLC plate thefts compared: 31 per cent of PLC registrations). 
  • Alternatively, SUVs and light commercial utilities wereunder represented (16 per cent of PLC plate thefts vs 27per cent of PLC registrations, and 8 per cent vs 14 per cent respectively).
  • Almost half (46 per cent) of the number plates stolen were from vehicles aged 10 to 19 years old.  Almost half (49 per cent) were also from vehicles valued less than $5,000.
  • 33 per cent of all number plates were stolen from vehicles parked on the street and 10 per cent were from vehicles parked in a car park.
  • 85 per cent of number plate thefts were from metropolitan areas– higher than the proportion of vehicles stolen from metropolitan areas (79 per cent).

VicRoads, Victoria Police and the NMVTRC are collaborating to identify improvements to vehicle identification and working to reduce the theft of and misuse of number plates.For more information on plate theft in Victoria, please visit https://www.police.vic.gov.au/safepl8