Counterfeit inspection stickers impact Travis County air quality

April 11, 2012  

sticker

Constable Deputy Drew McAngus on Saturday pulled over a vehicle with a counterfeit State Inspection sticker and is removing the contraband, getting one step closer to ending this ongoing problem.    - photo by Anthony Diaz

By Christine Imperatore

The Precinct Three constable’s office in Oak Hill has been conducting an investigation since 2010 in hopes of getting to the bottom of a trend of counterfeit and falsely obtained vehicle inspection stickers.

Backed by grants from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the constable’s office has trained their troops to spot counterfeit vehicle inspection stickers on the road. As of Aug. 31, the most recently published report, the program has yielded hundreds of citations and warnings and 12 arrests.

“These people are essentially stealing clean air, “ said Constable Richard McCain.

Air quality in Travis County has been a growing concern over the past few years. The county is very close to failing federal emissions standards, which could lead to harsh financial penalties that could hurt the areas business and overall growth. The state requires all vehicles be inspected before they can be roadworthy and part of those inspections include scrutinizing a vehicle’s emissions.

One phase of the program helped discover that many vehicle inspectors are creating what law enforcement refers to as “fictitious” inspection stickers. They are using information from someone else’s vehicle to create a sticker for a vehicle that could not pass inspection.

The constable’s office estimates that the numbers of inspectors arrested since the last report in August have at least doubled.

“There are legitimate victims in this as well,” said Sergeant Drew McAngus.

Some vehicle owners are not aware that their stickers are forgeries. They may have had a friend or family member take their car for inspection and that person allowed a fraudulent sticker to be issued or they may have purchased a counterfeit one.

Officers keep this in mind when they pull drivers over. When police are convinced the driver honestly had no idea they were doing anything wrong, the motorist is issued a warning and the sticker in question is confiscated.

In some cases, the owners of inspection stations have no idea that their inspectors are selling forged stickers.

Others may be a victim and never know it. Those who have clean vehicles may be the model used to create “fictitious” stickers. According to the constable’s office, inspection stations that deal in the fraud keep running lists of good vehicles that pass through so that they can use that car’s information to generate stickers for failing vehicles.

Aside from the fact that falsified stickers lead to a loss of revenue for the county and a depletion of the air quality in Travis County, there are major health concerns that come into play.

“When vehicles aren’t properly inspected it affects you and me, it affects people with asthma and it attacks our children and the elderly,” said McAngus.

He explained that his friend’s two children are asthmatic and that when they ask to go over to play in the neighbor’s pool he sadly has to tell them they cannot because the air quality is bad that day. The poor air quality is essentially preventing some children from being able to go outside to play.

One of the largest factors in the poor air quality are the vehicles on the road that have no business being there because they do not meet emissions standards. The toxic fumes that they dispel into the atmosphere is what damages the air quality, making it unsafe for some to inhale.

The sergeant who heads up the investigation, but has asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of his investigation, said, “nothing lasts forever, but I hope we have developed a program that is successful and can be implemented in other places.”

The ultimate goal of the program is to improve air quality as well as the quality of life in Travis County. Taking the offending vehicles off the road and ultimately getting to the heart of the counterfeiting situation is the route that this program is taking to achieve that goal.

The officers also hope to bring as much awareness to the people in and around Travis County as possible. In some cases, even those who do not live in Travis County may need to have their vehicle meet the county’s standards. Anyone who would like to verify the legitimacy of their inspection, find out if they need to do more to meet standards or possibly see if their vehicle’s information is being used to create fictitious stickers should contact Constable McCain’s office at 512-854-7245.


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