I was working for a company in south Orlando. I lived north of the city in another county. Late one morning, one of the sales reps came into my office to tell me my license plate was no longer on my vehicle. Well, what should I do, I thought. I decided to call the Florida Highway Patrol to report that my tag was stolen. The dispatcher asked me what county was it stolen from? I said, I would assume Orange since that was the county I was in. She said I needed to call the Orange County Sheriff's Department. I did. Of course I had to look up these phone numbers since this wasn't a 911 emergency call. No big deal, right?
"Yes, I'd like to report my tag stolen."
"Where was it stolen?"
"Orange County." At least, that was my story and I was sticking to it. I didn't think I could have driven all the way from home to work without being detected by an alert law enforcement official. She asked for my information.
"You live in Seminole County?"
"Then you have to report it stolen there."
"But I think it was stolen here."
"It doesn't matter where it was stolen. You have to report it to the county in which you reside." I didn't want to argue with her about that and she did give me the number of the Seminole County Sheriff's Department. So I called and told her of my predicament. This time, the dispatcher sounded like she didn't trust me. Like I was guilty of something.
"You need to have the vehicle towed to Seminole County and call us from there." She was not being friendly.
"What do you mean, towed? Why don't I just make one of those 'Stolen Tag' signs and affix it to the back of my car and drive it up?"
"That is illegal. You can have your car impounded for an improper tag if you are pulled over. You must have it towed."
"But that's going to cost me $80 for something I had no control over." I was already trying to figure out alternatives. "Anyway, after I call you back, then what happens?"
"Within 2 hours a deputy will arrive and take your statement and write a report about your tag being stolen. You will have to purchase a new tag, plus pay a $10 fee for writing up the report. Upon receival by the state, they will issue you a $10 refund through the mail."
I said, "That's not very fair. I have to pay $80 to have my car towed, some $10 fee, plus the cost of a new tag? Suppose my tag was stolen in Miami? I'd have to have my car towed here from all the way down there?"
Again, I said that it wasn't fair.
"That's your problem."
"OK, then. Is this phone call being recorded?"
"Good. Then I want to report that my license plate has been stolen. Thank you." Click.
There was a motor vehicle tag office right down the street from where I worked, so I called them and explained my situation and what I had just gone through. She laughed.
"Don't worry. Get yourself a ride down here. Bring in your registration and we'll issue you a new tag."
That's what I did. I saved $90 by not doing it the official "police" way. But, I was absolutely legal with the state, and to me, that was all that mattered. If someone used the tag and got into trouble, I would refer to my official government recorded conversation.
With all of the hurricane damage and response time, I wonder if it works the same way. One agency nails you to the wall and the other one unscrews you. And none the wiser to each other. Bureaucracy.