AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles is continuing its crackdown on paper license plate fraud — a problem that has plagued the state for years.

In addition to printing and altering real paper tags and counterfeiting fake ones, crooks are now obtaining 30-day permits to cover up crimes, according to Sgt. Jose Escribano, one of the state’s leading experts, with the Travis County Constable’s Office.

“Say for example you want to use a vehicle to commit some sort of crime,” said Escribano. “You could go and get someone to get a 30-day permit for you if you’re a criminal organization, and then use that tag to put on another vehicle, and then do whatever you’re doing to do.”

Escribano is seeing an increase in 30-day permits being used in Travis County. He said they are being used statewide to try to hide crimes ranging from human smuggling at the border to avoiding vehicle inspections and registration.

Escribano has complained these permits are “very easy to get.” He said vehicle inspection statuses are often overlooked, allowing salvaged or otherwise dangerous vehicles on the road.

In response, the TxDMV is now requiring drivers to show the following in order to get a short-term permit:

  • Proof of insurance
  • Proof of a passing vehicle inspection
  • Current government-issued photo ID
  • Power of attorney, if requested by a third-party other than a dealer

An email from the Texas Association of Counties to the Tax Assessor Collectors announced the new measures. The TxDMV said it was part of the department’s “ongoing efforts to address temporary tag fraud and abuse” with 30-day permits, which can be issued to qualifying, non or light commercial vehicles.

In a statement to KXAN, the TxDMV further explained the changes as it relates to county tax assessor collector offices, where the permits are issued.

“Tax assessor-collectors are required to comply with all applicable laws pertaining to their responsibilities,” said TxDMV spokesperson Adam Shaivitz. “TxDMV provides guidance and education to tax assessor-collectors as it relates to processing title and registration transactions. The department determined tax assessor-collectors should be verifying a vehicle has a current inspection prior to issuance of a 30-day permit, and we are currently working to provide tax assessor-collectors statewide the appropriate guidance and education on this issue.”

Shaivitz said the change was made “due to updated legal interpretations” along with “other planned fraud prevention and detection measures.”

Vehicles will not be issued a temporary permit, if the system shows it has a salvage title, he added.

This latest move comes about two weeks before state lawmakers are set to hold interim hearings on the impact tag fraud has on crime, in addition to looking at ways to put the brakes on a problem showing no signs of slowing.

“I know that that is an issue. It’s been an issue in my district,” said Rep. Lacey Hull (R-Houston) on Friday, when asked if addressing the paper tag fraud problem should be a top priority for lawmakers next session. “So, I am definitely willing to work on that next session and take a look at it.”

“On the radar,” she added. “Definitely open to it. And I know it’s something that is important to my district as well.”