A shortage of traffic cops is holding back ANPR's effectiveness
29 July 2009

The UK’s Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) systems are failing because of a serious shortage of traffic police to follow up on the information gathered, a top police officer has warned.

Forces across the country are increasingly relying on a network of about 2500 fixed ANPR cameras to identify anything from terrorist activity to road tax dodgers.

However, a number of loopholes are rendering the technology useless and there is a lack of back-up to respond when a suspicious vehicle is identified, one detective chief inspector told Autocar.

“If you go into any control system that is using ANPR, you will see it picking up problems constantly, but they just don’t have the traffic police to respond,” he said.

The Police Federation said the lack of officers has long been a concern. “ANPR is useless if you don’t have the resources to back it up,” added a spokesman.

Britain is consistently one of the biggest contributors of stolen cars to Europe, say the police, and motorists have only a 51 per cent chance of getting a stolen vehicle back. The country is also used as a gateway for stolen cars from abroad on their journey to other markets such as Africa.

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Our source said many stolen cars fitted with foreign plates, which may be en route through Britain, slip through the net because ANPR fails to pick them up. “People are always looking at ways to get around ANPR,” he added.

ANPR was invented in Britain and, until recently, was used for counter-terrorism only, but now cameras can be used to detect a number of motoring offences.

The fixed cameras are backed up by an unknown number of mobile cameras.

Ollie Stallwood

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