Clay County decal program aims to crack down on auto theft

These decals send a signal to deputies to pull your vehicle over

By Maggie Lorenz - Multi-media journalist

ORANGE PARK, Fla. - Starting soon, getting your stolen car back in Clay County might get a lot easier.

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office is launching a new voluntary program, called Combat Auto Theft (or CAT), which gives deputies permission to pull over your vehicle during the early morning hours.

It’s meant for anyone who’s not driving from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. Here’s how it works: a sticker placed in the corner of your rear window signals to deputies that your car isn’t supposed to be on the road.

PRINTABLE FORMS: Apply for the CAT program | Withdraw from the CAT program

If a deputy sees the yellow sticker, they can pull that vehicle over without cause. Once the car is stopped, the deputy will take steps to make sure it’s being driven by its rightful owner.

CAT decal

“We’re just trying to verify that the person operating the vehicle is that person because that’s what the owner wants us to do,” Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Andrew Ford explained.

Ford said authorities know the decals aren’t going to work for everyone. They’re intended for residents who want to add an extra layer of security to their vehicle, especially those who don’t drive overnight.

Interestingly, included in the application for the program is a disclaimer that drivers could be subject to other violations should a deputy pull them over.

“This is not a game of gotcha,” he said. “The plan is for us to make sure that we’re being proactive.”

News4Jax Crime and Safety Expert Ken Jefferson expressed some skepticism about the campaign, saying deputies would not have probable cause to make traffic stops on those vehicles.

“In my opinion, it seems like it’s a form of harassment that you’re going to stop every car that has a yellow sticker between these hours,” he said. “People are going to get tired of being stopped, particularly if they’re out legitimately and their car has not been stolen, or whatever.”

Ford said drivers are not waiving any rights, adding that it’s completely up to individuals if they want to sign up for the program. To learn more, visit the Clay County Sheriff’s Office website.

Copyright 2019 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.