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License plate robberies in Clay County

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Clay County residents are seeing a recent rash of license plate thefts from parked cars. According to the Sheriff's Office Facebook page, two of the thefts happened in Fleming Island, another in Middleburg, and two in Orange Park.

"They want to commit a crime, so they will take a tag off someone's car and put it on their own car and that way if someone runs the tag number it will come back to the car where the plate was stolen from," says News4Jax crime and safety expert Gil Smith, who adds that's just one reason why someone would steal a car's license plate. The second reason would be if they can't afford a new tag -- they may steal one from another car and then put it on their own.

According to the Clay County Sheriff's Office, at least five license plates were reported stolen in Clay County within a three day time period.

The first theft would be from a car in a Winn-Dixie parking lot off County Road 220 in Fleming Island. The next day license plate thefts were reported in an Orange Park neighborhood off Rockingham Road and in an unknown business parking lot in Middleburg. The next day, tags were taken in an Orange Park subdivision off Robert Livingston Street and at a boat and RV yard in the Eagle Harbor community in Fleming Island. Smith says it could be one criminal -- or a ring of them acting together. He says if caught -- the punishment won't be light.

"If someone is caught with a tag on their car that is stolen, that's a misdemeanor. They could be arrested. Some might say they may not know the tag is stolen pr they could be borrowing someone's car but even if someone is borrowing someone's car you're responsible as a driver to understand everything is legal and proper on the vehicle," said Smith.

If your license plate is stolen, immediately file a report with your local police station. You can also take that report to your local DMV to get a new tag free of cost since you will have proof it was stolen.