Registration in the trunk? Not a good idea

The in basket: One of the Seattle TV stations ran a weird story last week about a woman who had had her vehicle registration stolen from her glove box in a car prowl, leaving her fearful of ID theft and home invasion.

The report suggested taking your registration with you when parking in public. I don’t recall if that recommendation was attributed to any agency. An alternative would be to put it in the trunk.

If I followed the suggestion, I’d be applying for a new registration every month or so because I’d lose the one I’d taken from its relatively safe location in my glove box.

I asked my police sources if this is really a concern and about the most likely reaction by a police officer told by a stopped driver that his registration was in the trunk. And I asked the Department of Licensing if they charge for a replacement registration.

The out basket: None thought it to be much of a threat.

Brad Benfield of the Department of Licensing said, “This is an issue that came up a couple years ago, but I don’t get the sense that it’s a widespread problem or any more concerning than mail theft or other types of potential ID crime.”

Thieves had broken into cars at a movie theater and taken the registration and garage door opener, he recalled. “That way they would have the home address, a key, and knowledge the owners wouldn’t be home for at least an hour,” he said.

“From a document standpoint, a registration certificate just has a name and address on it – no driver license number or Social Security number. I don’t think it would be a highly valuable document for ID fraud purposes.”

And yes, they charge $5 for a replacement registration plus $5 more if at a subagent office.

Deputy Scott Wilson of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office said storing one’s registration in the trunk is not a recommended action.

“Should a driver advise an officer that the document is in the trunk it will, most likely, result in a request by the officer for a second unit to respond to the location as a back-up, unless the patrol vehicle is a two-officer unit.

“Law enforcement officers aren’t real keen on vehicle occupants rummaging around inside of a car or wanting to gain access to the vehicle’s trunk.

“Performing these actions probably would lengthen the time of the vehicle traffic stop,” he said.

State Trooper Russ Winger added, “We can’t have motorists getting in and out of vehicles on a regular basis. It’s dangerous traffic-wise and also for officer safety.

“In rare cases, we can run a DOL check and get the information we require. But we need to have that registration produced by the driver as a routine procedure.

“I personally doubt that the criminal activity you are talking about is a common problem, although I have heard the instance of the garage door opener theft. But that was long ago.

“If you weigh the risks involved, I think driver and officer safety is far more important.

“Keep the papers in your car, not the trunk though. You can also fold it up and keep it in your wallet or purse if it is that concerning to you. Most insurance companies provide wallet size ID cards or can, if requested.”

Scott also noted that using a post office box number for your registration address, if you have one, would frustrate such a crime.


3 thoughts on “Registration in the trunk? Not a good idea

  1. I don’t understand why a paper copy of the registration is needed at all anymore. All the info comes back on the car license and compared to the drivers license. It seems like a “we have always do it that way” obsolete requirement.

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