Auto inspection sticker thefts could top $1 million

Posted at 10:31 PM, May 24, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-24 23:25:14-04

ASHLAND, Va. (WTVR) -- Ever look over in traffic and see a rattle trap driving beside you? With bald tires, a cracked windshield, or grinding brakes?

It's got an inspection sticker, so it should be good to go right? Police say not if the windshield is wearing what's called a "hot" sticker.

Instead of stocking state inspection stickers Lawrence Farmer from Ashland Auto says maybe he should start stockpiling window panes.

"Yea, I'm fed up with it,” Farmer said. "I've been hit three times in the past six months."

The long-time mechanic has replaced the same garage window three times after someone broke in and pried open cabinets and heavy-duty safes to get their hands on state inspection stickers. “They took about 50 books," he said.

Each book has 25 stickers which sell for 16 bucks a pop, which means Lawrence's loss is right around 20 grand.

But police sources tell us the grand total is well over a million dollars’ worth, involving Loudon County, Spotsylvania, Charlottesville, Fredericksburg, Ashland, Hanover, Chesterfield, Henrico and Richmond. Sources tell CBS-6 they believe a team of thieves is involved.

Down the street off Route 1, K & M auto owner Kay Patrick says he's been hit a couple of times too. "They sell them on the street for 50 or 60 bucks a sticker," he said.

The last time they broke in through a window, so Patrick has re-enforced his windows and doors but says, if there's the will, crooks will find a way. "It's easier to steal an inspection sticker, than to have the work done,” said Patrick. “People are just trying to beat the system."

Troopers and local police are trained to spot "a hot sticker." If you get caught with one, it means misdemeanor trouble. Mechanics say the crime speaks to the condition of cars on the road, and add, someone better hurry and put the brakes on the crooks. "There are a lot of unsafe vehicles on the roads," said Patrick.

Every state inspection sticker should have a pink slip or 8 x 11 print-out that comes with it. If troopers suspect a "hot" sticker they'll be asking for that proof this weekend.

If you know anything about the sticker thefts, call Crime Stoppers at 7804-80-1000.