paper tag nation

Dallas Police Operation Targets Fraudulent Paper Tags

Police make three arrests, tow 11 cars in operation targeting illegal paper license tags

NBCUniversal, Inc.

The Dallas Police Department is taking aim at the fraudulent Texas paper license tags that have flooded Dallas streets. 

Earlier this week, officers conducted a major operation designed to crack down on people using illegally purchased temporary plates, not only to get around town but also to hide their involvement in other crimes.

In just one day Dallas police seized enough suspect paper tags to fill a table, highlighting again the scale of the problem.

Special Dallas police units that target high crime areas teamed up with auto theft investigators, homeland security investigators, and the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles on Wednesday targeting cars with fraudulent paper tags in an area near Camp Wisdom Road and U.S. Highway 67 in Southern Dallas.

We are going to target people who have the paper tags. We also are going to target the people who are issuing the paper tags.

Richard Foy, deputy chief with the Dallas Police Department

On Wednesday, police wrote 49 tickets and towed 11 cars. They also recovered two stolen vehicles, four weapons and arrested three people suspected of involvement in other crimes. More evidence, police said, of how people are using fraudulent tags to try to avoid being spotted by police.

“That's a tool they can use. So we need to target that, take that tool away from them, or at least combat that tool,” said Foy.

In November, NBC 5 Investigates exposed how crooked car dealers are illegally selling Texas temporary tags in massive numbers. Authorities in Travis County estimate more than 1.2 million tags were sold illegally statewide last year alone.

Our investigation revealed a lack of thorough vetting by the DMV has allowed crooks to gain access to the DMV’s tag system. The DMV acknowledged even people using stolen identities were able to get Texas car dealer licenses to get into the system and illegally sell tags.

NBC 5 found fraudulent tags all over Dallas, many issued by car dealers the DMV eventually shut down for suspected fraud.

Investigators said crooked dealers are often willing to create tags registered to fictitious names and addresses, creating ghost cars that are difficult to track.

“If they commit a robbery, a homicide, street racing, you know, whatever the crime might be, if all we have is the license plate from that paper tag, if it's fraudulent, we have no, we don't have much to go with,” said Foy.

In 2017, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) vetoed funding for special law enforcement units that used to fight tag fraud in major cities.

But Friday, the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) said it has obtained federal funds to help more police departments ramp up enforcement, hopefully later this year.

“I think it's not a matter of if it's a matter of when. We’re very optimistic,” said Chris Klaus, senior program manager for NCTCOG.

Since NBC 5’s reporting on the issue, the NCTCOG said it has received a flurry of calls from police departments wanting to know more about how to combat the real Texas tags created using fake information.

“Seeing the broadcasts that you guys have done is painting the picture that, 'Yeah, they may look OK, but they may likely not be OK,'” said Klaus.

Meanwhile, Dallas police are sending a message, reminding everyone the only place you can get a paper tag legally is at the time of the initial sale from the dealer that sells you the car.

You do not buy tags. That is not how it works. That it is illegal in every sense of the word.

Richard Foy, deputy chief with the Dallas Police Department

Dallas police said they will continue to work not only to take the tags off the street but to track those tags back to the people selling them.

After NBC 5’s reporting showed how some small suspect car dealers were printing hundreds of thousands of tags, a DMV advisory committee recommended more thorough background checks for people applying for small car dealer licenses. The board that oversees the DMV will meet to discuss that recommendation next week.


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