Houston - Temporary paper license plates continue to pop-up on vehicles all over Texas. While some are issued by actual car dealerships, others are being sold online and are fake. False dealerships are selling these bogus tags by the tens of thousands.
"It’s a threat to law enforcement [and] it’s a threat to the general public," said Sgt. Jose Escribano from Travis County Pct. 3. "What are we doing here? Who’s running this? The officers or the inmates?"
People buy these bogus tags because their vehicle would fail inspection, to avoid paying fees and tolls, or to conceal their true identity.
Sgt. Escribano and his team lead the state in investigating fake car dealerships and spotting bogus license plates.
"It’s urgent," said Escribano. "People are getting hurt. People are getting killed. Is it we don’t care? Or, is it we’re too incompetent to deal with what we’ve got right now?"
Earlier this year, Texas lawmakers passed HB 3927. The law gives the Texas DMV more authority to try and address the issue.
"Let’s get out of this rat race," said state Sen. Paul Bettencourt. "That’s what this is. You’re racing against rats that are stealing money from the public. They really have to look at this whole program, from the standpoint of what can they shut down and quickly. We know there’s a bunch of fraud."
On Friday, Texas DMV Executive Director Whitney Brewster answered questions about these temporary paper license plates.
"We’re hopeful this rule will allow us to address the temporary tag fraud that we’re seeing more quickly," said Brewster. "We’re hoping with the additional enforcement action we’re able to take, and tightening up the identification process, we’ll see a sharp decrease in this criminal activity."
"We need to tell the public to stop buying these tags," said Bettencourt. "They’re playing right into the crook’s hands."
Sgt. Escribano believes the problem won’t be fixed until the application process for Texas DMV dealers is addressed. Some people have suggested taking fingerprints from anyone who wants to become a dealer.
"The Texas DMV, they’re not addressing the core [problem]," said Escribano. "Somebody needs to come into upper management from outside, look at upper management, and see if they’re doing their job."