Why would someone want to steal the hybrid badge from my car?

A hybrid badge on a 2009 Chevrolet Silverado -- the first full-size, full hybrid pickup truck on the market. See pictures of hybrid cars.
AP Photo/General Motors

The only thing we really know for sure is that someone took your hybrid badge simply because it was there. A more precise answer isn't possible without having access to your personal miscreant, and even then, it's unlikely we'd get a real explanation. But we can offer some theories.

Ask a group of adults why a badge was stolen and you'll probably get adult theories -- logical guesses, you could say. The following possible reasons came up repeatedly when the author asked various adults why a hybrid car badge might have been stolen:

The thief might be looking to save money on parking, or wants to cut their commute time. Some cities offer free parking for hybrid vehicles. Perhaps someone hopes to hoodwink local law enforcement by gluing your hybrid badge onto his or her carbon-spewing clunker. They might fool the mall security person this way, but not the legitimate hybrid driver wanting the same parking spot. A few states allow "green" vehicles to use HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes with only the driver onboard, but most require a special sticker or license plate. New Jersey doesn't require anything special, and New Jersey Turnpike Authority officials have said, "state police do not anticipate any problems identifying which cars are hybrids" [source: HybridCars.com].

An opportunistic thief may have taken your badge, thinking they could sell it to buy something they really want. While this is possible, it's also unlikely. Economic crimes are committed by market-driven pragmatists and there doesn't seem to be much demand for used hybrid badges. However, a state-issued sticker, badge or license plate authorizing HOV lane usage is another matter. A recent check of a popular online auction site revealed only two used hybrid badges were offered -- no doubt by perfectly legitimate vendors. Neither had bids.

There's always a chance that a person who really doesn't like all things "green" could have taken your hybrid badge. You know who we're talking about, right? That weird neighbor who goes out of his way to mow his lawn with his smoky old mower on ozone action days. Perhaps he found your car's hybrid badge somehow offensive? If so, it's probably buried deep in a garbage mountain somewhere.

Concrete statistical data isn't available for this type of crime, but it appears that most reported badge thefts have nothing to do with rational -- if criminal -- adult actions. So, let's steal on over to the next page, where we'll catch the most likely perps in the act.