Police forces across the UK are set to adopt high-tech vehicle number plate reading technology next year following a successful pilot which resulted in the seizure of illegal drugs and stolen vehicles and goods.
The automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) system was tested by nine police forces for six months in a trial codenamed Project Laser. The police haul included £100 000 (about R1,4m) in drugs, 300 stolen vehicles worth over £2m (about R28m) and £715 000 (about R10,1m) in stolen goods and 3000 arrests.
Frank Whiteley, chair of the Association of Chief Police Officers Steering Group on ANPR, said in a statement the scheme will drive criminals off the road. "ANPR is a powerful tool to fight crime. We believe that by extending ANPR technology, backed up by dedicated police intercept teams, to all 280 local police command units in the country, we can effectively deny criminals the use of the roads."
ANPR systems can check up to 3000 number plates per hour on vehicles travelling up to 100 mph. Number plates are then checked against databases including the Police National Computer, and local intelligence databases.
Home Office minister, Bob Ainsworth, said the technology led to arrest rates of 10 times the national average and will improve police efficiency. "This is part of the Government's wider police reform agenda, designed to help forces target resources better and make officers' time on the streets more effective. Exploiting technology to improve efficiency will help the police meet their targets for continuing crime reduction and bringing criminals to justice," he said in a statement.
Earlier this week the government agency the Vehicle Operator and Services Agency (VOSA) revealed its plans to use ANPR technology to tackle road safety by monitoring all 24 million privately owned vehicles in the UK for MOT and tax-dodging.
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