It gets on everyone’s nerves: those infuriating late evening traffic checkpoints. But the traffic department is not just scraping for revenue, in fact they’re working on a what’s feared to be a mass licensing fraud.
Jacqueline Godwin found out that the officers recently stumbled on fake license stickers and it is now a criminal investigation:
Jacqueline Godwin, Reporting
Two months ago Belize City traffic officers detected one of the biggest scams at a routine check point. What you are looking at are counterfeit 2008 license stickers.
The collection represents only half of what has been removed from motor vehicles at various check points. At a glance the licenses look authentic but upon closer inspection of the stickers the flaws become apparent.Kevan Jenkins – Manager, Belize City Traffic Department
“How we know it is because it comes in doubles and it is more thicker than the normal ones and we also go by the serial number on the sticker.”
“It comes in two's. Two stickers put together. Because what happens is if you use one sticker, their equipment it gets too light so to look official they probably put it on a white surface and they put another one to show it.”
Another security feature is that the genuine vehicle license is designed with a color code that changes each year.
Because the genuine 2009 stickers have already been issued, to prevent that from now being counterfeited, there are plans to change the sticker.Kevan Jenkins – Manager, Belize City Traffic Department
“Yes, we are already in the process of changing this and putting in more security features. What is also another giveaway is that as motorists we can only license your vehicle for one year and the person who is doing this might not know it and what they do hey give it at two, three years at times. So any traffic officer that sees it right away they know it is a fake.”
Vehicle owners are advised that they will not need to change their present 2009 vehicle license stickers because traffic officers can also tell from the serial number if it is fake. If it is then there is a need for concern.Kevan Jenkins – Manager, Belize City Traffic Department
“We ticket the person for unlicensed motor vehicle. What happens is that our traffic officers are equipped with radios and we call in to our record rooms and verify by the serial number and the sticker.”
“When we call in by radio to the records room, the records clerk can give us the information and the particular vehicle that sticker should be on and when it is not on that vehicle then something is wrong.Jacqueline Godwin
“And that person is automatically fined for driving without a valid license?”Kevan Jenkins – Manager, Belize City Traffic Department
“Yes, at a cost of fifty dollars.”
And then what happens next, are they handed over to the police because this is a crime?
Kevan Jenkins – Manager, Belize City Traffic Department“What we do at the time we take the person name and address and all of the information we turn over to the police.”
Just who is behind the illegal crafty operation remains a mystery but what has been produced has left senior traffic managers like Kevan Jenkins truly amazed at the level of precision and cunning.
Kevan Jenkins – Manager, Belize City Traffic Department“Yes, in the fifteen years I am with the traffic department, it is the first time that I am seeing something like this.”
In just two months, the illegal activity has already cost the Belize traffic department forty thousand dollars in loss of revenue.
These fake license stickers are now in the hands of the police who are investigating to find out who is the mastermind behind the operation. We do know that at least one of the stickers was purchased in the Cayo District. Just how much the counterfeit stickers are being sold for is anybody’s guess and those who have been caught are not talking.
Kevan Jenkins – Manager, Belize City Traffic Department
“According to my officers on the scene no one wants to give any information.”
“I just want to advise motorists if they do have on one to just take it off and come in to the department and license their vehicle the proper way.” Wayne Usher, City Councilor, Traffic“We were very alarmed by it because the stickers look so authentic it was very difficult for me to know the difference. When I saw it I said this cannot be true.”
They suspect that there are more of the 2008 counterfeit vehicle license stickers in circulation.
At this time only the stickers issued by the Belize City Traffic Department have been counterfeited. But today City Councilor responsible for traffic Wayne Usher explained why the problem was easily detected and why he is optimistic that it will be short-lived; that’s because traffic officers are better trained.
Wayne Usher – City Councillor, Traffic“They are on the streets everyday and they know that people try and beat the system, they are more vigilant and I believe the training and the commitment to their work has made this came about because they are now more zealous in what they do.”
“I have tried to show our officers why we need to step up on our enforcement efforts, our administrative efforts an give the public the requisite level of attention that they deserve. We want to uplift this department to a level that the public are demanding.”
“We are limited in terms of our investigative efforts. When we come across these stickers we take our report form the officer who finds them, make the report then we pass it in the hand of the police. That is as far as our investigative work goes in terms of the sticker because Jackie it is a criminal offense being committed.”Jacqueline Godwin“One day you would like to see the department being given more authority so you can quickly address this problem.
I believe it is coming because right now we are in the process right now of reviewing all of our regulations. Some of these things will be touched on. I know for a fact that we want to review the penalties for infringement of traffic regulations because we feel that it has to be stiff enough to deter.”
Sources tell 7news that close to fifty counterfeit vehicle license stickers have been discovered. Jacqueline Godwin reporting for 7news.http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=14768