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Thieves Target License Plates in San Francisco; Rack Up Parking Tickets

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Car break-ins are a huge problem in San Francisco, but now thieves are also targeting license plates and victims are receiving parking citations.

Katie Lyons recently found her car without a front license plate. She believes someone unscrewed it right in front of her home in the Marina.

"Today I realized I was getting parking tickets, because I got a ticket on my car and I went to pay it, and I saw four tickets that I did not get," Lyons said.

She made the discovery online when she entered her license plate. She realized someone stuck her plate on a similar white Audi, and that car received multiple street cleaning and expired meter citations in Nob Hill in the last week.

"It's a violation, it's a sense of violation that you can't even park your car in front of your house without your license plate being stolen," she said. "That's actually what I first thought when I saw my license plate stolen - was that my license plate is now is going to be used for a crime and they're going to come looking for me."

In her Nextdoor community, she found that she wasn't alone. Another member recently wrote that his rear plate was stolen and replaced with another one. His original plate was put on a car almost identical to his, and that car is now getting parking tickets.

"Just earlier this afternoon the car right in front of me had a broken window, so definitely worried about that," said Marina resident Gabby Chen.

Now, residents learning of the news say they must also check their license plates, in addition to making sure nothing is left in their vehicles.

"It makes me not really want to park my car out on the streets anymore," Chen added.

Lyons filed a police report, and has to contest the tickets, get new plates at the DMV, and get a new street parking sticker from the city.

"I also don't think we should get numb to this. This type of behavior and lawlessness is not okay," Lyons said. "I understand we live in a city and things happen in a city, but we've crossed a line. And we need to be aware of what's going on and we need to speak up."

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