SEATTLE -- It's a crime drivers may not be aware of - car thieves switching out an innocent person's license plates with those of a stolen car.
"People will notice if their car is stolen out of the parking lot, drive way. They might not always check is the actual plates. So it's quite possible someone could be driving around with a stolen plate on their car and not even know it,” said Sgt. Sean Whitcomb of the Seattle Police Department.
The switch happened to Stanford Prince awhile back.
"I was jogging around Green Lake, parked my car and went downtown to work, and I got a call from the police department about 4 hours," said Prince. "My plates had been switched, I didn't know."
According to Seattle police, thieves know they have a certain amount of time before they get caught with a stolen car.
In order to extend the life of that stolen car, they will remove a license plate from a parked car and switch it with the plates of the stolen car.
The latest numbers from the Seattle police show car theft went up 4 percent from 2011 to 2012.
But detectives say it's tough to track the number of plates that get switched out unless a victim comes forward or if they get pulled over.
Stealing a license plate is a third degree theft gross misdemeanor, which carries a maximum sentence of a 364 days in jail and maximum fine of $5,000.