Detroit school district missing 560 municipal license plates

DETROIT (AP) — A newspaper investigation has found that up to 560 license plates belonging to Detroit's school district have vanished, and no one knows why.

The missing state-issued municipal plates don't have annual renewal fees and aren't tied to a vehicle identification number. It means that law enforcement would have a difficult time tracking a getaway car or identifying a reckless driver with an unauthorized municipal plate.

The Detroit district struggled to explain what happened to the missing plates, the Detroit Free Press reported. State officials don't monitor the plates once issued and there are few rules regulating them.

Michigan's Secretary of State issues the plates to local governments, police departments, school districts, volunteer fire departments and other public agencies. The plates cost $13 and are distinguishable by an "X'' between two sets of numbers.

"Once the plates have been issued, it is the responsibility of the governmental agency to monitor their use," said Fred Woodhams, Secretary of State spokesman.

The office said it doesn't believe the untracked plates are an issue, and that there are higher priorities.

The "possibilities of fraud are endless here," said Leslie Paige, an official with taxpayer watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste.

"There's a huge temptation to use them inappropriately because no one even knew they were gone," Paige said.

School district spokeswoman Chrystal Wilson said the newspaper's investigation "surfaced yet another example of a lack of systems and processes under emergency management."

Wilson said the protocol in the past was for individual departments to request the plates and handle decommissioning them.

"As such, plates were inconsistently recorded, used or stored," she wrote in a statement. "Moving forward, one department will own the process to request plates and issue them to authorized vehicles. We will also develop clear policy and administrative guidelines regarding the process of using and returning authorized plates by departments."

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