Those on the road may be witnessing Springfield's latest trending crime: an increase of vehicles without license plates or with expired tabs (stickers).
Last month, the Springfield Police Department posted a video on Twitter noting the department's awareness of the increase in vehicles with expired regular and temporary tags. And on Aug. 1, SPD implemented a 60-day enforcement effort in hopes to combat the trend.
SPD Major Stacy Parton said the enforcement effort follows concerns from both City Council and citizens.
Why are there more Springfield vehicles with missing, expired plates?
Parton said he believes the increase is due to pandemic closures, which presented challenges for vehicle owners to register in a timely manner.
"The state of Missouri issued a minimum 60-day extension in 2020, that was followed by many offices being closed during the pandemic," Parton said. "When this happened, we allowed for more time before taking any enforcement actions for expired plates and expired temporary tabs. Those grace periods have all expired at this time."
As the department navigates the first week and a half of the enforcement effort, it remains 49 officers short of being fully staffed, according to a department spokesperson.
More: Amid police shortage, council nixes three unfilled officer positions in favor of support staff
Parton said despite the shortage, the department has encouraged officers, especially on down time, to "make a focused effort on pulling over drivers with expired plates or tags."
SPD was unable to provide the News-Leader with information regarding how many citations have been distributed to drivers since the establishment of the enforcement effort. This data will be released upon its conclusion in October.
What are the consequences?
In addition to the government missing out on money from people who don't keep up with their vehicle registration, police say people driving without a license plate can complicate theft and crash investigations.
In SPD's Twitter video, Officer Nathan Fetters said during the summer months, the department witnesses an increase in vehicle thefts.
When a vehicle is stolen that has not been properly registered, it makes it more difficult for the department to recover it and prove ownership, Fetters said.
To avoid vehicle theft, SPD recommends to:
Keep your car tidy
Take your belongings with you
Lock your doors
In addition, driving a vehicle without license plates or with expired tabs is illegal. Fines for such offenses vary.
If you see another driver with missing/expired plates or tabs, SPD asks the public to not call 911, unless there is something suspicious about the vehicle or they are witnessing a crime in progress.
What happens if you're in an accident?
Parton reminded drivers to get as much information as possible when in an accident.
If you are in an accident with another driver with missing/expired tags, still write down their name, contact information, insurance information and vehicle identification number (VIN). If witnesses are present, write down their information, too. This information is needed to file a citizen crash report.
If you are in an accident with another driver with missing license plates, Parton said to call 911 for an officer to respond.
If an officer responds, a citation may be issued to the driver with missing/expired plates.
This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Drivers in Springfield see police crackdown on missing, expired tags