SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — License plate thieves are hitting cars across the Sacramento area, creating more than just headaches and long waits at the DMV for victims.

Police say the thieves steal license plates for stolen cars, or just the registration stickers on their car so they don’t have to pay.

Nicole Mullenaux just replaced the license plate on the back of her minivan after thieves took her old one while she was out shopping on Tuesday in Placerville.

“They actually took the whole thing out, there was no screws, there was nothing left,” she said. “It just caught my eye, I came up and went “is that my car?” and I looked and was like “That’s my car.’ So yeah it was bizarre.”

California Highway Patrol officer Quinn Cuthbertson says this type of crime happens every day.

“Some people have electronic devices to just take those screws out really quick, some plates are held on with zip ties,” he said.

Thieves were most likely after Mullenaux’s registration sticker to disguise themselves from police, he says, to hide an expired registration or disguise a stolen vehicle.

Under new rules, Mullenaux had to report her plate stolen to police and the Department of Motor Vehicles in order to be issued a new one. That replacement cost her $20.

It’s a frustrating change of plans for her. She now hangs her plates with theft preventative screws that need a special tool to undo them.

Another option to deter a theft is to take a razor blade and cross over the the top of the sticker, which makes it harder to peel.

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