Police to set up national camera network

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The Independent Online

Police are setting up a national network of cameras across England and Wales to track down criminals using the roads.

Police are setting up a national network of cameras across England and Wales to track down criminals using the roads.

The scheme uses automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) to identify vehicles that police want to trace.

The system was tested by 23 forces between June 2003 and June 2004 and has markedly increased the number of arrests made, according to police.

The cameras scan vehicle number plates and a database containing more than 8.5 million number plates is searched in less than one second.

If a "wanted" vehicle passes the camera it can be tracked and an arrest made.

Last year, the Government pledged £15m to support ANPR over the next year.

The Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland (Acpo) said the trials showed ANPR had increased arrests and prosecutions by many times the average levels.

Acpo said 13,499 people were arrested, including 2,263 for theft and burglary and 1,107 for drugs offences.

Acpo's ANPR Strategy for the Police Service for 2005 to 2008 is to be launched tomorrow.

Frank Whiteley, Chief Constable of Hertfordshire Police and Acpo ANPR Steering Group chairman, said the strategy was a "a key step in grasping the opportunities ANPR provides for denying criminals use of the roads".

He told the BBC: "The police service is now integrating ANPR into its day to day activities as a mainstream policing tool."

The strategy also aims for all police forces in England and Wales to have at least one ANPR intercept team by October 2005.

ACPO said ANPR use during the trials led to 180,543 vehicles being stopped and more than 3,300 arrests for driving offences.