Why license plates are being stolen and how you can prevent it

Eric Erlandson says he got screwed -- specifically, he got his license plate unscrewed by a crook.

"Anyone could have came through and done it," he says. "I never even thought of it as a crime until after they explained it."

Police say thieves throughout the metro are using stolen license plates to cover up for other crimes -- in many cases, going to a gas station, filling up, and then taking off.

At the Bobby and Steve's in Eden Prairie, manager Laken Riggle says one driver even left a stolen license plate in the car wash.

"We take the license plate on our camera system, we take a photo of it," Riggle says. "There were magnet strips on the back of the license plates."

Brooklyn Park crime prevention specialist Terry Dehmer says so far this year nine license plates have disappeared from driveways and businesses in his community. It happens more often when gas prices are relatively high, but still takes place even when gas is cheap.

Minneapolis police say they tend to find stolen cars with stolen license plates, but arresting someone for stealing plates is tough because license plates are so easy to ditch.

While standard screws are pretty easy to remove, police say torx security screws could at least make it harder for crooks to take your plates off.

Erlandson added those special screws to all his vehicles and is thankful he hasn't been victimized a second time.

"It could have been used for something way worse and have it connected to our business," he says.