Australia-First Trial To Target Number Plate Theft

22 March 2019

VicRoads is trialling new number plate security measures and digital identification technologies and to reduce number plate theft and cloning across Victoria.

A new partnership between VicRoads, Department of Justice and Community Safety, Victoria Police and La Trobe University has been established and aims to improve vehicle identification and combat number plate theft and misuse. 

VicRoads Executive Director Customer and Technology Sally Curtain said the trials to investigate identification technology on Victorian vehicles will make finding stolen or cloned number plates quicker and easier.

“We are proud to lead this Australia-first research and technology trial with government and industry, and know it will go a long way to help reduce number plate theft and cloning,” Ms Curtain said.

“Researching the link between number plate theft and other criminal activity will help understand motives for stealing or cloning number plates, improve community safety and relieve pressure on frontline police.”

Professor Aniruddha Desai, Director of the Centre for Technology Infusion at La Trobe University said the Centre at La Trobe has extensive experience in applying emerging digital technologies to solve problems. 

“Our Centre will evaluate how selected technologies perform in real-world scenariost and how they can provide tamper-proof digital vehicle identification information in an efficient manner,” Professor Desai said. 

One technology being trialled is Radio Frequency Identification inside a sticker on a vehicle’s front windscreen, which will act as a third number plate. The sticker self-destructs when removed, enabling police to identify vehicles who may have a stolen or cloned number plate. 

The second technology is Dedicated Short Range Communications, a new digital technology that can communicate with road infrastructure and could also be used to identify automated vehicles in the future. 

Additional security features for number plates, like holographic patterns on driver’s licences and passports, will also be tested. New digital identification methods will make it harder for an offender to successfully hide a vehicle’s identity as the additional identifiers will not match a stolen or cloned number plate. 

The trials will determine how the technologies operate in practice and how they will integrate with existing systems including Automatic Number Plate Recognition currently used by police.

In the 12-month period ending September 2018, Victoria Police recorded more than 19,000 incidents of number plate theft. Victoria Police report stolen and cloned number plates are used to hide a vehicle’s identity when committing other crimes such as ram raids, petrol drive-offs and toll evasion.

The project phase underway also includes world leading research with the Monash University Accident Research Centre on the link between stolen number plates and other crimes is due to be complete in mid-2019.

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