Police crack down on those living in Wash. with Oregon plates

Police crack down on those living in Wash. with Oregon plates »Play Video

VANCOUVER, Wash. - The Washington State Patrol knows about 36,000 people who live in Washington but registered their cars in Oregon to avoid paying certain taxes.

But they estimate that is only about 25 percent of the license cheats out there.

It's such a big problem that WSP Trooper Steven Schatzel spends all his time on the issue. He has stacks of license plate numbers from potential license cheats. He patrols rush hour commutes and local apartment complexes to find them. He logged 130 Oregon plates in one night at one Vancouver apartment complex.

But many of his cases are called in by angry neighbors.

"They see that guy every single day, and it just grinds on them," Schatzel said. "They pay their fair share, and they want everybody else to pay theirs."

Some people contacted by KATU News Tuesday who were in Vancouver with Oregon plates said they had just bought their vehicles. One man said he works in Oregon and thus drives a company car with Oregon plates home to Washington.

In three years, Schatzel and his team tracked down more than 11,000 license cheats, bringing in $2 million. But close to 150,000 more may still be out there.

"They are cheating our schools, our roads, our health services," Schatzel said. "It just goes on and on."

Troopers said many people use their friends' addresses in Oregon to register their vehicles. If caught doing that, people face a $1,100 fine.

If you skip out on sales tax, it could be a fine closer to $10,000 and even jail time.

Schatzel said many people don't realize there is a paper trail that investigators can track to pinpoint a violator.

If you want to report a vehicle that appears to be licensed in Oregon although the person lives in Washington state, call (360) 449-7975.