Police getting a hand from neighbors in identifying out-of-city plates

Police getting a hand from neighbors in identifying out-of-city plates

WOONSOCKET – Last week, Woonsocket Police released the results of the latest sweep targeting out-of-state plates, mailing citations to 34 individuals who were found to have registered their vehicles outside the city over a 45-day period.

That brings the total number of individuals cited to 176 since the city began the initiative in spring of 2018.

However, in an interesting twist, police said not all of those cars are registered out of state. Instead, 13 of the 176 were registered to other communities within Rhode Island that have lower vehicle taxes than Woonsocket. In those cases, they said, tips come in from residents who know or suspect their neighbors have improperly registered vehicles.

“When we first did this issue, we were inundated (with tips) in the weeks afterward,” said Chief Thomas Oates.

The response highlights a growing frustration among residents with neighbors they don’t feel are paying their fair share. According to Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt, neighbors are the biggest reporters of out-of-state plates in the city. Oates said tips arrive in a variety of formats, with some residents even handing him a piece of paper with information during events.

“The tax revenue is impacted, and they’re picking up other people’s responsibilities,” said Baldelli-Hunt.

While tips are responsible for some of the citations, most of them are still the result of grunt police work. Lt. Thomas Calouro, who heads up the initiative, described how patrol officers take note of out-of-state license plates during their nightly shifts. By state law, any vehicle housed in a community for more than 30 days must be registered to that city or town. Once an officer tallies more than 30 nights seeing the same vehicle, that vehicle is added to a list and the owner gets a notice to appear in court.

“There is a penalty to this if you don’t show up,” said Oates, adding that individuals who fail to appear have their registrations suspended.

About 75 percent of the vehicles cited were registered in Massachusetts, many of them in neighboring communities. Of the remaining vehicles, Connecticut and Florida were the most popular states for registrations, while Georgia, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Texas and Virginia were also home to at least one registration each.

Woonsocket taxes its vehicles at $35 per thousand, the highest currently allowed by state law. That amount varies by community in Rhode Island, while in neighboring Massachusetts, the rate is $25 per thousand across the state.

While regaining city tax revenue is one reason for the crackdown, Public Safety Director Eugene Jalette said there’s also a public safety concern. Vehicles that aren’t registered to their owner’s home address are difficult to trace in the case of an emergency.

If all goes according to plan, the state’s motor vehicle tax will be phased out in 2024. According to Baldelli-Hunt, the city plans to continue its crackdown on improperly registered vehicles after that time.

Comments

What happens to a person who has a company car that is registered elsewhere ? Does the company who owns the car get harassed with a notice to go to court to explain this ? Sounds to me that with all the "GRUNT" work the W.P.D is doing I hope they check to see if this is why the said car is registered out of the community !

I worked for a Connecticut based company once, and the vehicle stayed at my home. Never an issue, was registered to the company, not me. So I don`t see how a company vehicle would be a problem. Also, these out of state registrations issues are nationwide. I still live close to a border, and many people register their cars in the adjacent state to avoid emissions testing.