Stray Signals

Case of the missing plates: Corner Brook ham radio operators’ specialty licence plates stolen – The Telegram

There appears to a be thief at work in Corner Brook and this one has an unusual penchant for licence plates.

Kody Gardner lives in the Curling area of the city and Jerry O’Keefe in Townsite. Both are amateur or ham radio operators and both proudly displayed that fact on their vehicles with specialty licence plates bearing the VO1 call sign for Newfoundland. Operators in Labrador use VO2.

On Saturday both men discovered their prized plates had gone missing.

Gardner noticed his plate missing on Saturday evening. He figures it must have been taken sometime overnight Friday, as he’s sure he saw it there on Friday night.

Jerry O’Keefe’s missing licence plate has the call sign VO1 GR.

He drove to Grenfell Campus at 6 p.m. on Saturday and when he came out he noticed the licence plate wasn’t there.  

“I thought it might have fallen off on the way. So, I retraced my steps and there was no sign.”

Gardner posted the missing licence plate to the classifieds on Facebook, figuring if someone saw it they might contact him.

Then he got a call from O’Keefe. His plate was also missing and likely taken from his vehicle the same night.

This led Gardner, who has since learned of two other plates being stolen, and O’Keefe to think it was probably no coincidence.

While all ham operator plates on the island have VO1 on them, the remaining two or three letters in the call sign are unique to the owner.

After putting out what happened on Twitter, Gardner has gotten some insight as to why the plates might have been taken.

“Plate collecting is very popular here in Newfoundland and since those VO plates are pretty rare, I guess it might be a hot item for someone to go ahead and sell online.

“I don’t know, I can’t think of any other reason why.”

Gardner only got his plate last summer, but O’Keefe has had his since 1997. It bears the Cabot 500 logo, making it a little more valuable and irreplaceable.

“You know, I’ve been a ham (operator) a lot of years and it’s really personal that that plate has been around a long time,” said O’Keefe.

To get a ham ticket was a big thing at one time, he said.

“There wasn’t a lot of us around.”

He said the plates let people know that they have radios in their vehicles, which could be used for communication in emergencies. 

He knows there are always people looking for plates, but can’t see why someone would want something with his call sign on it.

“I don’t know why anyone would take it, honest to goodness.”

Gardner and O’Keefe have filed reports with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. Gardner will keep an eye out on some online classified sites and O’Keefe will do the same. O’Keefe has also contacted other operators, “some of the old hams,” to give them a heads up and has “one of the super sleuths” in St. John’s on the case as well.

While waiting for replacement plates, which could take up to a year to get, they have put their old plates back on their vehicles.

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