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29/05/2003

New police traffic system paves way for crime crackdown

A new hi-tech system launched today is set to put the brakes on serious crime in 23 police force areas.

The Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system was piloted for six months in nine police forces, and will now be rolled out across England and Wales. In trials, the cutting edge system has helped police seize more than £100,000 in illegal drugs and recover over 300 stolen vehicles – with a value in excess of £2 million – and £715,000 in stolen goods. More than 3,000 people were arrested - 10 times more than the national average - with the majority of arrests being for serious crimes.

The police say that the success of the pilot underscored research which points to strong links between road traffic offences and more serious crime.

Home Office Minister Bob Ainsworth: "Criminals, like everyone else, need to use the roads - but in areas where ANPR technology is in operation, they are increasingly vulnerable.

"This crime fighting technology coupled with officers' local knowledge and experience, means vehicles are stopped in a more focused, intelligence-led way, so honest motorists are less likely to be pulled over by the police."

Hailed as a powerful technological tool in the fight against serious crime, ANPR systems instantly scan number plates and match them against information stored in databases to identify vehicles of interest to the police such as stolen cars or those involved in crime. When a suspicious vehicle is recognised it becomes the focus of police targeted interceptions and enquiries.

It was also announced today that fixed penalty notice receipts from offences detected through ANPR will help fund the further expansion of the pilot scheme. From 1 June 2003, the fixed penalty scheme for motoring offences will be extended to include three additional offences; failing to supply driver details when required, driving without insurance or an MOT certificate, together with an increased penalty for failing to display a current tax disc.

The second phase of the ANPR pilot scheme will run until this December

The Home Office has already provided support for all forces to use ANPR with £4.65 million worth of funding from the Crime Reduction Programme. Entitled 'Project Spectrum', this provided each force in England and Wales with one fully compatible mobile ANPR unit and associated back-office facility in June 2002. In addition many forces have purchased additional ANPR capability.

(GMcG)

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