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Licence plate cloning curse

High-profile criminals are keeping under the radar in vehicles supplied with copied registration numbers

Cloned number plates have been used in a number of high- profile crimes lately, including the murder of a Mount Road detective, the hijacking of courier vehicles and the robbery of a jewellery store in Greenacres Shopping Centre.
Yesterday, details emerged that the white Renault Clio used as the getaway vehicle in the armed robbery of Creative Jewellers in Greenacres had been fitted with cloned plates.
Shortly after the robbery,police pulled over a white Clio with the exact same registration plates, only to find it was the wrong car.
Police spokeswoman Colonel Priscilla Naidu said they had noted an increase in false and cloned licence plates used in crimes.
In the jewellery store heist on Thursday, five men stole about R4-million worth of jewellery.
Last week, a silver Toyota Etios used by four gunmen who shot and killed Detective- Constable Bonga Ngcingwana, 35, in New Brighton, was also fitted with false plates.
Investigations revealed the rightful owner lived in Gauteng. Neither the Etios nor the Clio have yet been recovered.
Over the past three weeks, courier vans and trucks have been hijacked in New Brighton, Walmer, Motherwell, Deal Party, Sidwell and Kinkelbos.
Naidu said it was a major issue for police.
Usually, after a vehicle is hijacked or stolen, the criminals fit it with cloned licence plates that match the make, model and colour of an identical car. “This effectively allows them to fly under the radar until a crime is committed,” she said.
Naidu said detectives, together with other role-players, were constantly trying to locate the registration plate manufacturers who provide these criminals with the cloned plates.
“In some cases, the licence discs are cloned, giving the impression the car is legit,” she said. “In other cases, the criminals will drive around and locate the exact same type of car, such as a white Clio, and then take it to a manufacturer who illegally duplicates those licence plates.”
Bay head of safety and security John Best – who also oversees the Traffic Department – highlighted that both municipal and private security licence plate recognition cameras installed across the Bay would soon be linked to the municipal control room.
“This will allow us to identify any vehicle that is wanted and even possibly cloned. The system can be adjusted to identify categories of vehicles such as those used in burglaries, hijacking and robberies.
These will then be flagged and the details given to authorities,” he said.
“In time, this will be rolled out across the metro to combat criminals.”
Best said the system would be operational by the end of the year.

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