Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets, Bombers plates hot items for thieves

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There are more than 50 Winnipeg Jets and Winnipeg Blue Bombers licence plates that have been stolen and, likely, now hang in man caves around town.

The theft of the specialty plates has hardly reached epidemic proportions but it's enough to have raised the eyebrows of Manitoba Public Insurance while creating a cottage industry in special security screws. MPI said 35 Jets plates and 20 Bombers plates have been stolen in the last year or so.

Spokesman Brian Smiley said he has little doubt crazed sports fans are behind the thefts.

"It's strictly somebody looking to get easy memorabilia. A criminal will steal a plate or two and throw it on another vehicle during a crime. Here, they couldn't get their hands on a (Jets or Bombers) plate or didn't want to pay the $70 associated with getting a plate," Smiley said.

Dean Hart, branch manager of the Bolt Supply House Ltd., said his St. James store has sold "thousands" of security screws since the Bombers first came out with their licence plate last year and the Jets followed suit a few months later.

Rather than a traditional Robertson or Phillips screwhead, these security screws have a pair of small pinholes that require a special screwdriver to use.

"It's not really a business we ever went after. We're not a retail store per se. It was just because we are a speciality fastener supplier that we have access to the stuff," he said.

The specialty plates do not come with screws. Most drivers put them on with the screws that came with the licence frames on their bumpers. The majority of those screws could be loosened with a coin.

Of course, security screws aren't a magic bullet that will completely eliminate all thefts but few thieves likely carry specialized tools.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

IF your specialty licence plate has been stolen and the number held some sort of sentimental value to you -- 9-14-15 in honour of Bobby Hull, Ulf Nilsson and Anders Hedberg, perhaps? -- don't worry, you'll be able to get an exact replacement. Simply visit your Autopac broker, pay the $25 replacement fee and you'll get your old number back.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 24, 2012 A14

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