Wichita, Kan. -- Police are warning all car owners to keep a close eye on their license plates. In west Wichita alone, nearly 20 license plates have been reported stolen in just the past few months.
Your car can be a sitting target when it's parked on the street or in the driveway but while missing valuables or a shattered window will grab your attention, how often do you really look at your license plate?
"A lot of people don't go to the back of the car to check. Just randomly check and make sure that's your tag on the back of your vehicle,” Officer Lori Kimrey with the Wichita Police Department said.
Police say recently they've seen a surge in stolen license plates. Sometimes the tag's missing. Other times, a thief just switched it with another stolen plate.
"I think what people are doing is they're switching the tag because when they go commit crimes they don't want their identity shown back on the tag, so they'll steal somebody else's tag or swap it with another person's tag so it doesn't look noticeable,” Officer Kimrey said.
It is a good idea to check your plates often. If you don't notice yours have been swapped, you'll be riding around in a car with stolen plates.
"An officer could pull you over. Just say calm. Make sure you tell them you didn't know it was missing and make sure you report your plate stolen so if we see your tag on another vehicle we can get it back to you,” Officer Kimrey said.
The best defense is to park your car in the garage if you can. If that's not an option, there are special anti-theft screws that could make your plates a little harder to steal. The screws can't be removed with a normal screwdriver.