CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - When the RNC comes to town, the city will be equipped with the best security equipment federal government money can buy, including riot gear, bicycles, and security cameras.
But law enforcement already has one tool at its disposal. Basic police work. They have the ability to track someone through their driver registration and vehicle license plates. That's assuming they can read the plate in the first place.
In Ohio, it's illegal to drive a vehicle with an obstructed license plate. That means a plate that police can clearly read. No obstruction, no peeling paint, and no rust.
Last year, Brad Kalmer of Parma was cited by police for rusty plates on his vehicle. Frank Gullata of Brooklyn was also cited. But Brad and Frank weren't the only ones.
Carl Monday and his team checked with the Clerk of Courts and found 327 motorists were cited in the city for driving a vehicle with obstructed plates, last year alone.
But while Cleveland Police were busy cracking down on violators, we found much of the city's own fleet sporting plates that appear to violate the law. Monday documented dozens of rusted, sometimes mangled, plates around town on city vehicles.
Plates that would make it all but impossible for police to trace. Carl Monday showed pictures of some of the plates to Mr. Kalmer.
Kalmer reacted strongly to the pictures by saying, "My plate was nowhere that bad! No way that bad. No way my plate was that
Carl also compared Mr. Gullata's plate to one he found on a city vehicle. The contrast in conditions was evident. Gullata said, "Look, I guess it wasn't fair."
For most of us, getting new plates costs about $12, and means going online, or worse, making that dreaded visit to the BMV, and waiting in a long line.
But the city can replace the plates on any vehicle, anytime, free of charge. So why hasn't it been doing it? Since last March, Carl Monday has been asking the Mayor's office for answers. Apparently, he got their attention.
A few weeks ago, a Mayor's spokesman admitted the city "initiated a city-wide license replacement program" shortly after it became aware of our story. The city is now auditing all of its vehicles for accuracy and plate condition, and is in the process of replacing obstructed plates.
But it might be a bit early to award the city the "clean plate award." The replacement program won't be completed until the end of summer, long after the RNC packs up and leaves.
Until then, we'll continue to see rusted city plates on city vehicles, and not just in the motor vehicle graveyard. Monday and his team found them on the road, and parked everywhere from a rec center to right behind City Hall.
Monday recently saw a water department truck across from the Justice Center, rusted plates and all. The driver was unable to comment. No comment, either, from Director of Public Works, Michael Cox.
The Mayor's Office denied our request to interview the man who oversees the city's vehicle fleet. Monday also checked the plates on the Mayor's driver's vehicle. It has newer plates.
Frustrated by what appears to be a double standard, Kalmer said, "The city should be citing themselves. That's hypocrisy."
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