Thieves attach stolen plates to cars, fill up with fuel and then drive off without paying to foil petrol station security cameras.
Since February, 87 plates have been stolen from Broxtowe, Gedling and Rushcliffe boroughs.
This is compared to 59 stolen between last August and January this year.
Superintendent Mike Manley said: "While the amount of vehicle crime across the division has gone down by 27% in the last year, there has been a recent rise in thefts of number plates, which has affected all areas.
"Due to the recent increase in fuel prices, we believe many of the stolen number plates are being attached to cars and used in petrol station drive offs."
Offenders also use stolen number plates to avoid being picked up by automated number plate recognition cameras (ANPR).
The ANPR cameras only spot registration plates, not cars.
Supt Manley said: "If drivers are caught using stolen plates they will be charged with handling stolen goods, which is a serious criminal offence that will lead to a fine or imprisonment.
"If drivers are also using these plates to commit other offences or avoid paying car insurance, road tax or congestion charges, they are running the risk of severe penalties."
In an effort to crack down on vehicle crime, South Notts Police have a dedicated Autocrime Team, which tackles theft of vehicles and theft from vehicles
Set up in April this year, it has so far detected 102 vehicle crime offences and charged 17 offenders.
To avoid plates being stolen, police recommend replacing standard screws with one-way 'clutch-head' screws.