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Automatic Number Plate Recognition

Volume 463: debated on Thursday 19 July 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if she will discuss with the Secretary of State for Transport extending the network of automatic number plate recognition cameras. (149607)

[holding answer 16 July 2007]: Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) is an established technology that the police use to identify vehicles of interest through pattern recognition software. It is used to target terrorism, serious and organised crime, volume crime (such as burglary) and some vehicle documentation offences (for example, uninsured driving and road tax evasion). Police officers using the technology are achieving a significantly higher arrest rate and offences brought to justice rate when compared to conventional policing methods. The recent terrorist incidents in London and Glasgow demonstrated the usefulness of ANPR as an intelligence and analysis tool.

The Government have invested over £32 million to support the deployment of ANPR for traffic and wider policing purposes. A number of other public organisations also use the technology, for example to support traffic management and congestion charging. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is in regular contact with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport on matters of shared interest, including roads policing and enforcement and the role of technology in this and wider security matters. We will ensure that any benefits to engage criminality that can be derived from the use of the ANPR network will be balanced against the need to safeguard human rights and the privacy of individuals.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what proportion of alerts from the automatic number plate recognition system were found to be in error in each year since 2004. (150573)

[holding answer 18 July 2007]: Police forces conduct rigorous pre and post-sales inspections of all ANPR equipment technology with the manufacturers to ensure for the long-term accuracy and reliability of the equipment.

The proportion alerts from automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) systems found to be erroneous in each year since 2004 is not held centrally. However, the Home Office Police Standards Unit's evaluation ‘Driving Crime Down—Denying Criminals the Use of the Road’, published in October 2004, said that

“feedback from the forces was that the ANPR systems were extremely accurate—anecdotal evidence that fewer than one in 25 reads were incorrect—this virtually eradicated stopping vehicles where ANPR reader had misread the vehicle registration mark(VRM)”.