Vehicle Identification Number
Date: Mar 11, 2005
Contributor: Kenya Rahm
Bryant police chief says intent of 'VIN' letter not to mislead
A Bryant Police Depart-ment's tip to help residents prevent theft of their vehicles has raised some conflict with state law.
Police Chief Frank Gonzales said the department's intent was to not mislead "our citizens" in sending out Feb. 7 letters to Bryant water users. In the letter, Gonzales advised residents to cover the vehicle identification numbers on their dashboards to prevent thieves from obtaining the VIN number, take it to auto dealerships and have a duplicate key made.
Gonzales stated that a thief could use the key to enter a vehicle without damaging it and then take it to "chop shop," where the vehicle could be stripped and its parts sold for resale.
"To avoid this from happening to you, simply put some tape across the VIN# metal label located on the dashboard," the letter states. "By law, you cannot remove the VIN#, but you can cover it so it can't be viewed through the windshield."
Questions regarding the legality of the practice reportedly were raised from Bryant Alderman Rick Meyer.
An Arkansas statute states that any person who removes or alters the appearance of the motor vehicle's identification number is guilty of a misdemeanor.
Gonzales said he sent the information to local residents after receiving it from the Little Rock Police Department. According to the report, the chief checked with other law enforcement agencies and was informed it was not a crime to cover a VIN number.
Sgt. Terry Hastings of the Little Rock Police Department said a national law enforcement agency alerted the department to the possible illegal use of vehicle identification numbers, the report states.
Gonzales said the residents are thankful for the department's notifications and have inquired about the matter.
He said one woman asked whether putting a small notebook on her dashboard and covering the VIN number would be wrong. The chief said he told her she would have to remove it if she were stopped by a police officer and he asked her to remove it.
He speculated that perhaps the law should be changed.
State Sen. Shane Broadway, D-Bryant, said the state statute likely was intended to prevent thieves from hiding stolen cars and that it was written before they began using the numbers to get duplicate keys, according to a news report.
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