POLICE raided two homes in a Sheffield suburb plagued by thieves stealing car number plates.
Police searched properties on Cannon Hall Road, Crabtree, after around 15 number plates were stolen from cars parked in the area over the last few weeks.
Around half have been used on vehicles involved in drive-offs from petrol stations across the city, where motorists fill up and drive away without paying.
Sergeant Matt Wooding, from Ecclesfield Safer Neighbourhood Team, which carried out the raids, said many of the vehicles targeted by the offenders belong to staff who work at the Northern General Hospital and park up on residential streets.
He added: “There has been a spate of thefts in the area over the last seven or eight weeks, with around 15 number plates reported stolen.
“Some of them, around half, have been used in other crimes – drive-offs from local garages.
“We are examining CCTV footage from the garages where these drive-offs have occurred as part of our efforts to find the offenders involved.
“We also want to raise awareness that this is happening.”
He said many of the cars targeted by the thieves are parked up all day before their owners return to them at the end of their shifts to discover that their vehicles have been tampered with.
By then the thieves have had a number of hours to use the registration plates in other crimes before they are found to be missing.
Sgt Wooding said: “We have now flooded the area with extra police patrols to try to catch the offenders in the act and as a deterrent.”
He said he believes more than one group is responsible for committing the offences.
Sgt Wooding added South Yorkshire Police and the AA have special screws available for motorists to attach number plates to their vehicles, which make it impossible for them to removed without snapping.
Anyone with information about the thieves should call Ecclesfield Safer Neighbourhood Team on 0114 2202020 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.