CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Traditionally, thieves steal license plates to help them mask a car they stole as well.

A change to North Carolina's system of vehicle registration may give them a far pettier reason -- getting out of going to the DMV.

People take them, and then they peel the stickers off them later on to use on their own car that they haven't paid their taxes on, or they haven't gotten them inspected or gotten registration properly, said Sgt. Jim Morrison with the University City division of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department. It makes the tag look like it's legit even though that car is not.

Morrison has seen a very slight uptick in license plate thefts in his patrol area this year. It corresponds, he says, with the timing of North Carolina's transition to a new system of vehicle registration that relies more heavily on the sticker on your license plate.

I just want to get ahead of it, he said.

He suggests the simple fix of installing tamper-proof screws on your license plate cover. They are screwed in with an Allen wrench that's packaged with the screws, as opposed to a standard screwdriver. That means thieves are less likely to be able to remove them.

Morrison also suggests protecting the sticker on your tag by using an Exacto knife to cut a small cross into the sticker. It makes the sticker more difficult to remove whole.

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