Thieves taking automobile license tag decals

OKEECHOBEE — Although it may seem small and inconsequential, the theft of tag decals has become a popular crime.

Lately, said Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) public information officer Michele Bell, there seems to be an inordinate amount of these thefts.

To be exact, 14 in the last week.

“I’ve been noticing it,” she said. “The only reason to steal a decal is to try and fool law enforcement when you have an expired tag.”

If a motorist is caught with a stolen decal on their tag they can face two misdemeanor charges. The first charge is having an unassigned tag, and the second is the actual theft of the decal. Each of those charges is a second degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine or 60 days in jail.

According to OCSO records, six of the recent thefts have occurred in the southeastern section of the county.

Elsewhere, four reported thefts have taken place in the northeastern part of the county; there have been three reported thefts in the northwestern part of the county; and, one reported theft in the southwestern part of Okeechobee County.

Tag decals are stolen.

The tag decal in the upper right corner is being targeted by thieves.

For law enforcement it’s not difficult to determine if a decal is not on the correct license plate, because the black on yellow decal will also display the license tag number of the vehicle to which it was assigned.

“You should periodically look to make sure you still have your decal,” pointed out Mrs. Bell. “If it’s missing, contact law enforcement and make a report.”

Then, take that report to the collector’s office to get a new decal.

“If you bring in a report, the tag is free,” said Celeste Watford, tax collector for Okeechobee County. “If you don’t have a report, there is a fee of $34.10.”

She then pointed out that the sticky decals don’t come off that easily and can be very troublesome to remove.

“I don’t know how they’re taking them off without tearing them up,” she offered.

She reminded vehicle owners to wipe off all the dirt and clean the area properly before attaching the new decal.

If you simply lose the decal, it will cost you $34.10 to get a new one.

To make a report, go to the Okeechobee City Police Department if you live in the city or the sheriff’s office if you live in the county. The OCPD is located at 50 S.E. Second Ave., and the OCSO is located at 504 N.W. Fourth St.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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