By Katie Nilsson
ROCKFORD (WREX) - Investigators say it's a growing problem in Northern Illinois, people stealing trailers and claiming they made them themselves. That's because you used to be able to just file paperwork to get them registered.
As of the first of the year, that law changed right. Now, your trailer will be inspected by an investigator with the Secretary of State's office. Winnebago County State's Attorney Joe Bruscato says you'll also have to prove you made it, by showing receipts for materials you used to build it. "Many of them were stealing commercial trailers, obliterating the identification numbers and then going to the secretary of state's office and registering them as a home made trailer."
"This was an easy way for them to obtain a number and the paperwork for the trailer," adds Northern Illinois Auto Theft Task Force Investigator Hank Lipinski. An investigation by that task force helped change state law. It was trying to help an area couple whose horse trailer was stolen. The investigation led them to a man, who'd registered it with the state as homemade. Bruscato says the state will take simple steps so people can't do that anymore. "It's rather obvious the difference between a home made trailer and a commercially built trailer and up to this point in time it was very easy for somebody to steal a trailer and basically get a clear title for it."
Police estimate of the roughly 4,000 registered homemade trailers in Boone and Winnebago Counties, only about ten of them really are. They think the rest are commercially made and stolen. Investigator Lipinski urges people who know or think they may have one to come forward. "It'll give the opportunity for the honest person who obtained one from his buddy, the opportunity to get rid of his trailer and not face prosecution, or possibly not face prosecution because of that.
If you're caught with a stolen trailer, you could be charged with a felony and be sent to prison for seven years. If you'd like to turn one in call the Northern Illinois Auto Theft Task Force at (815) 977-5001.