The Fort Worth Police Department said Tuesday it has launched a special operation in high crime areas aimed at taking fraudulent Texas paper tags off the streets.
The announcement came at a city council work session where members quizzed police about what they are doing to tackle the problem.
A series of reports from NBC 5 Investigates recently exposed the massive scale of the black market, and some council members have taken notice.
“Of course, everyone has seen the NBC 5 news report,” said Mayor Pro Tem Gyna Bivens.
Paper Tag Nation
Since the FWPD special operation began just three days ago, police said they have already busted bad guys using fraudulent tags in an effort to conceal other crimes.
In just eight hours of work spread over two days last weekend police said they stopped 41 cars and those stops lead to 16 arrests for other more serious crimes.
“They found weapons, they found drugs, people felony warrants. And now we're going to be able to take those tags and work with our other partners to try to track those back to the people who were actually producing those fake tags,” said Fort Worth Chief Neil Noakes.
Briefing the council Tuesday, a deputy chief said the department has already zeroed in on some local operations believed to be selling tags.
“We currently have three open investigations on three locations in our city that are distributing and selling these tags illegally,” said Fort Worth Deputy Chief Pedro Criado.
Earlier this week, an NBC 5 investigation showed how police across the area are struggling to capture suspects using paper tags to conceal their identities as they steal, smuggle drugs, commit violent crimes and run from police.
The rogue dealers who sell tags for profit can enter false names and addresses into the state's electronic tag system, creating ghost cars, which are difficult for police to track.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency told NBC 5 Investigates a major fentanyl smuggling ring busted in Fort Worth used paper tags.
“Every single vehicle that this particular organization was using to move their drugs from point A to point B were temp tags,” said Eduardo Chavez, DEA Special Agent in Charge.
Fort Worth Police said their officers have even seen people attempting to commit robberies and violent crimes, attach paper tags to their car just prior to the incident.
“We've actually had some of our covert units, witness some criminals in the process or about to commit a crime, and they pull over and physically take the hard tag the aluminum tag off their vehicle and put a temp tag prior to committing the crime,” Criado said.
Mayor Pro Tem Bivens urged people to be on the lookout and report tags that seem suspect.
“Whenever you see a paper tag, there is a good chance that that's a driver who should not be on the road and who knows what history that driver has,” Bivens said.
Council Member Michael Crain urged police to do everything they can to tackle the problem. He noted his constituents have been hit by cars with fraudulent tags which often have no insurance.
“Those people are out of pocket for their deductible and everything else when they have been doing everything right”, Crain said.
Police assured the council they are on it.
“Rest assured that we're going to continue combating the issue. We have this special operation is still going on”, Criado said.
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