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Law enforcement officers check for uninsured motorists, fake insurance cardholders

By Staff | Feb 9, 2012

When the Cape Coral police pulled over Elizabeth Newcomer on Thursday, it was for more than just not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign.

After Master Cpl. Jamie Grey explained to Newcomer what she had done wrong, he asked for her license, registration and proof of insurance. Grey was on the hunt for uninsured motorists and fake insurance cardholders.

For the second year in a row, the Cape Coral Police Department partnered with the National Insurance Crime Bureau for the traffic operation. For the first time, Fort Myers police and Florida Highway Patrol also took part.

“We’re hoping to expand out a little more,” Capt. Lisa Barnes said of the other agencies participating by targeting drivers in their jurisdictions.

“The idea is to stem fraud,” she said.

Producing a fake insurance card is a third-degree felony.

Fraudulent insurance claims reportedly cost each insurance holder an estimated $420 per year, according to industry professionals.

Barnes added that insurance fraud also involves fake traffic accidents.

“It leads into organized crime,” she said.

With Newcomer’s information, Grey walked to his vehicle and contacted a command center set up at police headquarters. Nearly two dozen insurance companies were waiting to check incoming information from road officers.

Within minutes, dispatch relayed that Newcomer’s insurance was valid and up-to-date. With a warning about stop signs, she was given the OK to leave.

“I think this is a good idea,” the Cape resident said of the operation.

She explained that if she got into an accident with an uninsured driver, like her friend recently did, she would be forced to pay for the damages herself. Operations like the one Thursday help keep those drivers off the roadways.

“It doesn’t leave me high and dry (after an accident),” Newcomer said.

Grey explained that officers were not randomly pulling over motorists on Thursday, they had to have probable cause, like an expired tag, not using a turn signal or wearing a seat belt. They then checked for documentation.

“It is a check of everything,” he said, referring to auto insurance, vehicle registration, a valid driver’s license and such.

“We want everybody to comply,” Grey said.

Ralph Garcia, with the National Insurance Crime Bureau, called last year’s operation “excellent,” which prompted the repeat. Though officers found no fake insurance cards last year, there were close to 300 stops conducted.

“The goal here is several goals,” he said.

The operation works to open the lines of communication between law enforcement and insurance companies, identifies people with fake insurance cards and identifies motorists who do not have insurance, Garcia said.

“Makes the public aware that the police department does care,” he added.

The operation ran from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Cape police officials reported Thursday that:

– 279 traffic stops were conducted in total

– Nine tickets were issued for criminal traffic violations

– 63 tickets were issued for moving violations

– 31 tickets were issued for non-moving violations

– FMPD made one arrest for driving on a suspended license

– FHP conducted eight commercial vehicle inspections, which resulted in three vehicles being removed from local roadways for violations

No fraudulent insurance cards were discovered this year.