Fake licence plates fooling photo radar, and even Calgary police

Calgary police are finding fake licence plates on stolen and uninsured vehicles, and some of them have eluded photo radar.

Home-made licence plates, some made of cardboard, showing up on uninsured, unlicensed vehicles

Some drivers are making fake licence plates in Calgary to fool photo radar and elude police. (Service Alberta)

Some people on Calgary roads will go to any lengths to avoid a speeding ticket, even creating home-made licence plates.

Calgary police say fake plates are rare, but occasionally they pull someone over with an illegitimate plate. 

"In one case we're aware of there was a plate that was made out of cardboard and it was a pretty good knock-off.  But it was made out of cardboard and then the motorist covered it with a plastic cover to protect it from the weather," said Sgt. Paul Stacey.

There are many reasons why people make fake licence plates, whether it's to drive stolen vehicles or simply because people can't afford the licensing and registration, he says. 

There was a plate that was made out of cardboard and it was a pretty good knock-off.- Traffic Staff Sgt. Paul Stacey

"An officer pulled over a motorcycle that had a fake plate on it and after the motorist left with his wheelbarrow full of tickets and we took his bike, what he said to the officer was, 'I'm not even going to get my bike back because I can't afford it, which is why I made the fake plate, because I couldn't t even afford the licence or the registration,'" said Stacey.

Inadvertently caught up in the fraud

Sometimes, people with legitimate plates and registrations get caught up inadvertently in the fraud.

CBC's Meg Wilcox received a speeding ticket in the mail. Her sinking feeling of dread that she'd been caught with a lead foot turned into surprise when the radar photo showed her plate but on the wrong car.

"It had all of my personal information — my name, licence and plates were all right, but the car was a white Cadillac and I drive a tiny red hatchback," she said.

'My name, licence and plates were all right, but the car was a white Cadillac and I drive a tiny red hatchback,' said CBC's Meg Wilcox after receiving a photo radar ticket. (Submitted)

"So definitely not my car. But when I looked at the photo that white sedan had the same plate number."

When Wilcox called Calgary police, they agreed to withdraw the ticket. As a journalist at CBC, she decided to look into the issue.

CBC's Meg Wilcox recently received this letter from Calgary police after her licence plate number showed up on another vehicle. (Screengrab)

Finding fakes can boil down to luck

Stacey couldn't explain the circumstances that led to Wilcox's speeding ticket without tracking down the white Cadillac with the fake plates and talking to the driver.

The CPS processes thousands of tickets a year and each one is looked at with "a fine toothed comb before it goes out, and that was the case in Meg's case as well," he said.

"I think we have some pretty good checks and balances in place, but occasionally you're going to run across this and when it's brought to our attention, we'll investigate it."

Tracking down the fakes often just boils down to luck, he says.

"We've had lot of times there are poor knock-offs, and they're easier to spot."

But he is warning people against saying a licence plate is fake to get out of speeding tickets because it is illegal.

"If people think this is a good way to get out of enforcement tickets, and if you call and you say that wasn't my plate ... and it turns out that's not true, you go from just having to pay a fine for a photo enforcement ticket to facing a criminal charge of public mischief," said Stacey.

"If you're making up fake plates, you're probably not the best driver either and you're eventually going to get caught," he said.

With files from Meg Wilcox


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