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Clean up your (licence) plate

Prof says ticket could be seen as cash grab

This snow-covered licence plate could cost the motorist $203.80. Police say it hinders enforcement.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

This snow-covered licence plate could cost the motorist $203.80. Police say it hinders enforcement.

Cash grab or common sense?

Winnipeg motorists are discovering their dirty or obscured licence plates are netting them a $203.80 ticket.

Winnipeg police say the dirty plates hinder enforcement.

Staff Sgt. Rob Riffel said officers in the traffic unit get frustrated during the winter months with motorists who have dirty or obscured plates.

Riffel said dirty plates can foil the effectiveness of photo radar, make it impossible for witnesses to identify a vehicle in hit-and-run incidents and hinder police who frequently check vehicle licence plates.

"It's a pet peeve," with police, Riffel said. "There is no real crackdown going on, but our guys, on an ongoing basis, do give that ticket out, that's for sure."

But one university criminologist said police motives will be questioned when officers issue tickets without an accompanying public-warning campaign.

Richard Jochelson, an associate professor in the criminal justice department at the University of Winnipeg, said police are on solid legal ground when issuing tickets for an obscured plate but added they would have been better off warning the public first.

Jochelson said police warn motorists over the Christmas holidays when they'll be cracking down on drinking and driving through their Checkstop program, and if they were really concerned about traffic welfare, they should do the same for obscured plates.

"If they're just blitzing dirty plates, that's just more of a cash grab," Jochelson said.

Stopping motorists at random doesn't create public consciousness about the issue, Jochelson said.

"If they are that concerned about it, I'd say let the public know and give us a fair chance to clean our plates," he said. "Ticketing in the absence of a public campaign just seems more of a cash grab from a police force that seems more inclined to generate money that way."

Riffel said motorists should take a few extra minutes when filling up with fuel during winter months to give their plates a swipe.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

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