- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 14, 2001

The D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles ran out of motorcycle license plates nearly four months ago, and some owners complain the temporary tags on their bikes have led to frequent stops by police.
"I have been waiting for two months on my motorcycle tags, and I have had a check ready since October 5," said Brock Lofton of Marshall Heights in Ward 7.
Mr. Lofton, 53, is an avid motorcyclist with a new Harley-Davidson cruiser. He said because of his paper tags, he is constantly questioned or stopped by police officers when he's out riding.
"You are repeatedly scrutinized by officers," Mr. Lofton said. "I am a tax-paying, law-abiding citizen, and I shouldn't have to put up with this."
Mr. Lofton knows of other enthusiasts some waiting more than three months who have tried to get permanent plates for their newly purchased motorcycles, only to be told the plates haven't come in yet.
Sgt. Joe Gentile, a D.C. police spokesman, said police stop drivers with temporary plates every day if the plates are reported stolen. Otherwise, he said, there is no effort to go after vehicles with them.
Plates for all vehicles in the District used to be made at the Lorton prison complex in Fairfax County, but all of the inmates there have been moved to prisons in Ohio and Tennessee in anticipation of Lorton's closure Dec. 31.
D.C. officials said the closing of Lorton prison and the high demand for motorcycle plates this year contributed to the shortage. The District generally estimates how many plates it needs based on the number distributed the previous year and the estimates for increased volume.
"We order tags based on the number from the previous year, and we thought we ordered enough," said Regina Williams, a DMV spokeswoman.
Mrs. Williams said the popularity of sport bikes and cruisers reached an all-time high this year, and the District was simply unable to keep up with the demand.
"We were overwhelmed. There was a run on motorcycles this year, and we just ran out," she said.
She did not have an estimate of how many motorcycle plates were needed, or how many the department fell short.
After the contract with Lorton expired, the DMV was unable to sign a new service contract with another distributor until Oct. 1, the beginning of the fiscal year.
The new contractor, Unicor, is a government-owned company that distributes goods made by prisoners to state governments through the Federal Prison Industry. This is the first time the contractor has worked with a municipality.
Unicor was supposed to deliver a shipment of plates last week, but Mrs. Williams said a security problem held it up.
Traci Billingsley, spokeswoman for the prison bureau, said the order is complete and should be delivered within a few days.


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