As the Sheriff of Dougherty County, and as a 30-year veteran of law enforcement, I feel a certain anxiety every time I see a law enforcement officer conducting a traffic stop.
I know that citizens often ask why we in law enforcement spend so much time catching speeders rather than chasing the “real” criminals. But if there is one thing I have learned in my three decades on the job it is this: criminals get where they’re going the same way the rest of us do — they drive. We know that a criminal’s inherent lack of respect for the law may be reflected in their driving. Conducting traffic stops is an excellent way to get criminals off the street.
Because of our presence on the roadways, many criminals attempt to avoid attracting too much attention. For those who do not have a license plate for their vehicle, that means one of three things: drive without a license plate, steal someone else’s license plate, or use a counterfeit plate.
More and more, criminals have been choosing the latter option. Driving without a plate usually gets the instant attention of law enforcement and is practically asking to be stopped. Stealing someone else’s license plate leaves the victim without a plate, and that usually gets reported promptly. Law enforcement then has the stolen plate number to be on the lookout for. Using a counterfeit plate, however, may go undetected for a long time.
In order to combat this trend, Georgia has introduced new license plates designed to minimize counterfeiting. The new plates include a directional image that appears only when viewing the license plate from a particular angle and disappears from view at other angles. The image is designed to be seen by a person walking up to the vehicle from behind, as a law enforcement officer would do during a traffic stop. The new plates also contain a three-dimensional security image that runs vertically through the center of the license plate and can be seen from more than fifty feet away in traffic.
Another difference in the new plates is that they are flat plates rather than embossed. Flat plates are thinner and digitally printed rather than having the embossed lettering that gives a 3-D appearance. Over the past decade, at least 17 states and the District of Colombia have gone to the flat plates, mostly in an effort to save on production cost. Some feel that the flat plates don’t look “real,” but the inclusion of the security images should counter this problem in Georgia.
Georgia will begin issuing two different designs of the newly enhanced license plates in May of this year. We are currently in the process of educating our deputies on the enhancements made to the new license plates and expect that enforcement efforts statewide will be improved by this change.
If you have any questions, comments or concerns about the new license plates, or traffic enforcement, please feel free to contact my office at (229) 431-3259.
Sheriff Kevin Sproul is a longtime resident of Dougherty County. He is a graduate of Albany High School, Darton College and LaGrange College of Albany. Sproul has been employed with the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office since 1982 and can be reached at (229) 430-6508.