Plate pirates target ham radio operators in Corner Brook

Thieves have been stealing the specialized licence plates right off the vehicles of amateur radio users.

Thieves steal specialized licence plates right off their vehicles

Someone stole the specialized ham radio licence plate right off amateur radio operator Kody Gardner's vehicle Saturday. (Cherie Wheeler/CBC)

There's a different kind of pirate radio situation unfolding in Corner Brook.

Someone is stealing the licence plates of amateur radio operators there, right off their vehicles.

"It's sort of uneasy because it's something we enjoy doing," said Kody Gardner, who lost his plate over the weekend.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, amateur radio operators can get licence plates starting with "VO1," followed by a call sign.

In Gardner's case, it's his initials: "KJG."

I don't think anyone has something against us hamradio operators or something.- Kody Gardner

The plates identify the owner as being an amateur operator, and sometimes that they have communications equipment inside the vehicle.

But the ease of identifying those unique plates could also make them targets.

"There's a lot of plate collectors in Newfoundland and Labrador, and these plates are fairly rare. You don't come across them very often," said Gardner.

"So maybe to someone it might be worth a bit of money if they sell it online or something. So that's the only thing I can think of. I don't think anyone has something against us ham radio operators or something."

There are a number of Newfoundland and Labrador licence plates for sale on the online auction site eBay, where at least one amateur radio plate is listed.

In Gardner's case, he noticed the plate missing on Saturday night, after studying at Grenfell campus.

But he says he wasn't the only one targeted.

"Soon after another ham radio guy, Gerry, gave me a call and said, well, his plate was taken right out of his driveway that same night," he said.

Industry Canada's website has a list of amateur radio operators, complete with information on their skill levels, what they're trained to do and their home addresses.

Gardener thinks that could make him and his colleagues targets, and says it might be a good idea for amateur operators to take off their specialized plates for the next little while "because who knows who's next?"

"We're there in case of any sort of emergencies or something," he said.

"So for some like me it's definitely a hobby, but some other people take it pretty seriously, and they've been doing it for decades, so to have something like that stolen off your vehicle, something so personal like that, is definitely concerning."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador