Nova Scotia

Police in Nova Scotia cracking down on 'lick and stick' MVI stickers

Fake MVI stickers are so widespread in Nova Scotia that the province has doubled its number of vehicle inspectors to tackle the issue.

At least 3,380 tickets were issued in the last 18 months for fake or expired vehicle inspections in province

Connor McKay, 17, was recently fined $180 for having a fake MVI sticker. He says he didn't know the inspection was fake when he bought the used car through a private sale a few weeks earlier. (Angela MacIvor/CBC)

Provincial inspectors, along with Nova Scotia's police departments, are cracking down on fake motor vehicle inspection stickers.

The problem is so widespread that the province has doubled the number of inspectors on staff from three to six in the last 18 months to spend more time addressing the issue.

From January 2018 to June 2019, 3,383 tickets were issued in Nova Scotia for "operating a vehicle without a valid inspection" by RCMP, Halifax Regional Police and the Department of Transportation. Those numbers do not include other police agencies across the province.

The same law is used to capture fake inspection stickers, expired inspections and vehicles that do not have a valid inspection, so it's not clear how many of the 3,383 tickets stemmed from fake inspection stickers.

Connor McKay, 17, learned about "lick and sticks" the hard way this spring when he was pulled over by an RCMP officer in Milford.

One telltale sign of a fake sticker is the colour of the lion on the Nova Scotia flag. Fake versions tend to have a white lion, while the government-issued stickers have a red lion on the flag. The font colour and spacing are also different. (CBC)

"He saw my inspection sticker and he reached into my car and he said, 'This is fake.' And he started peeling it off," said McKay.

The teen said the 2010 Subaru Impreza was his first car, which he only bought a few weeks earlier through a private sale.

"I knew that there was tint in the front windows [and] I knew that was going to be something that I was going to have to battle when I went to get another inspection," he said.

"I didn't know right off that it was a fake inspection sticker already on my car."

McKay was issued a $180 fine and told to get a proper inspection done immediately. Once the tint was removed, the car passed.

Fake vs real

To the untrained eye, the counterfeit version may look like a legitimate MVI sticker. But Const. Kristine Fraser of the Halifax Regional Police traffic unit said officers can spot a fake one right away.

"There's different characteristics that we look for in the stickers. It can be colour, font, spacing, anything along those lines," she said.

Const. Kristine Fraser of the Halifax Regional Police traffic unit says officers verify the validity of a MVI sticker by asking for the inspection certificate. She says in most cases where drivers have a fake sticker, drivers won't have any additional documentation. (Angela MacIvor/CBC)

One telltale sign is the colour of the lion on the Nova Scotia flag. Real MVI stickers have a red lion, while the fake versions tend to be white.

Fraser said when MVI stickers look questionable, officers will ask to see the inspection certificate.

"A lot of times the driver or owner of the vehicle will not have that," said Fraser. "But if they do, we verify the numbers on the certificates match up with the number on the inspection sticker, as well as the vehicle identification number."

In many cases, the numbers on fake MVI stickers are stolen from other vehicles.

Vehicle seized

At a recent checkpoint in Dartmouth, Halifax Regional Police issued 15 fines for fake/expired MVI tickets during a two-hour period, including an SUV that was seized and towed.

"Upon closer inspection once it was in, it was noticed that the tires were bald, [it] had brake issues, a cracked windshield, a variety of issues," said Sgt. Mo Chediac.

At a recent two-hour checkpoint in Dartmouth, Halifax Regional Police issued 15 fines for fake or expired MVI stickers, including an SUV that was seized and towed. The vehicle also had bald tires, a cracked windshield and needed brake repairs. (Angela MacIvor/CBC)

"In most cases, from what we've heard, is that people are willing to pay $150 to $180 for just the fraudulent sticker. And the concern is that if you're willing to pay that kind of money for a fraudulent sticker, the reason is because you're masking more significant problems."

According to Chediac, the SUV that was seized needed at least $1,000 in repairs.

Fines issued

Of the almost 3,400 tickets issued, the RCMP issued 2,162 fines, while Halifax Regional Police had 957 and the Department of Transportation documented 264 summary offence tickets.

By stepping up enforcement on fake and expired vehicle inspections, Fraser said it comes down to one thing: safety.

"We want people to be aware that this is what's on the road and this is what could cause a collision," she said. "So, by taking these vehicles off the road or making drivers aware of possible deficiencies, who knows how many lives we're saving?"

Clarifications

  • A previous version of this story said Service Nova Scotia doubled the number of inspectors and issued fines. In fact, it was the provincial Department of Transportation that did so.
    Jul 04, 2019 12:01 PM AT

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