Last Sunday I woke up for church to find the number plates to my car had been nicked, both the front and rear plates were literally plucked off the car.
My initial thought was that I had committed some traffic offence I wasn’t aware of and taking the plates was the penalty, for that there would have been some sort of notice explaining what it was.
There was nothing, of course! I really don’t think there is any law which calls for stripping car plates in the middle of the night as punishment. But then a nasty surprise like this gets your mind scattered all over the place.
A more settled mind a minute or two later, sprang up vandalism and theft. I walked to the nearby police post to report the theft and found it locked for Sunday, called the non-emergency number and got called back within an hour for a statement over the phone, plus a ref number that would allow me purchase new plates.
By Monday the next day, I had on new plates with the original number and another experience to write home about. The only downside is now I have to carry all my personal and car identification details with me for a while because every time I come across the cops or drive past police cameras, the replacement plates are clocked as stolen.
While the Kampala ‘Charlie’ may favour nicking mirrors, the London yobs prefer number plates. It turns out car plates are one of the most stolen items from cars in London and the UK. Last year alone over 40,000 sets were stolen nationally.
The stolen plates are normally used to commit traffic commit offences like speeding and illegal parking. The tickets are then sent to the address of apparent owner of the number plate, while the real offender gets away scot-free. The fines come directly to your home address since the vehicle’s number plate is registered to your name and house.
The stolen number plates are also used for petrol drive-offs. UK petrol stations don’t have pump attendants like in Uganda, drivers have to get out of their vehicles and pump the fuel themselves before paying at the pump using a credit card or walk inside the petrol station shop and pay at the counter.
This system relies wholly on the automatic number plate CCTV cameras at the stations to discourage fuel theft, but you find a few daring people filling up and driving away without paying.
The more clever ones use stolen number plates. Before you know it, the police could be knocking on your door for stealing petrol at some far-off part of the country you have never been. Getaway vehicles in more serious crimes also usually carry stolen car number plates, just like in the movies.
To make sure I never fall victim again, the police called at our door two days later to hand-deliver a set of specially-designed screws they say will be virtually impossible to remove once they have been fitted.
I was also asked if I may be in need of counselling to get over the grief of being a victim of crime. That I politely declined with a smile. A Ugandan born and bred fella like me, has definitely seen worse and still come out intact.
Source : The Observer