Police reading number plates to ensure ‘essential travel’ Covid rules being followed

‘We need do everything we can to prevent the spread of coronavirus,’ says commissioner 

Sam Hancock@samhancock95
Monday 11 January 2021 21:39
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Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology is to be used in Devon and Cornwall to ensure residents “only” make “essential journeys” during lockdown, police have said. 

Officers will have access to information from various roadside static cameras across the region in a bid to enforce stay-at-home coronavirus regulations, according to the force’s chief constable Shaun Sawyer.  

Police already have an ANPR app installed on their devices, which gives them live information about vehicles they pass.  

Alison Hernandez, the police and crime commissioner for Devon and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, said the move was necessary during England’s third national lockdown because “we need to be doing everything we possibly can to prevent the spread of coronavirus”.

“Covid is spreading rapidly across the whole of the UK, not least because this new strain of the virus is far more contagious,” she told the PA news agency on Monday.

Ms Hernandez said that while the people of Devon and Cornwall had “done a great job so far” – which is “reflected in our case rates which are among the very lowest in the whole country” – “we mustn't become complacent”.

“I was saddened to hear about the reports of hundreds of Covid breaches over the weekend, many of which are understood to be related to second homes,” she said, referring to the near 1,000 Covid breaches that Devon & Cornwall Police reported on Monday as having taken place between 5-10 January.  

Of the 885 reports, 699 resulted in police intervention, the force confirmed in a statement.  

“As such, I welcome the force’s use of ANPR to monitor vehicle movements and make sure the only journeys being made here are essential ones,” Ms Hernandez said.

“Using this technology helps us see where certain vehicles have come from and allows officers to further investigate their reasons for travel.”

Ms Hernandez previously called on celebrities to “lead by example” and stay away from Devon and Cornwall during the lockdown.

“I would particularly like to appeal to celebrities and high-profile social media stars,” she said. “By not conducting unnecessary trips to the region you will be setting a fantastic example to the wider public and, in doing so, encouraging more people to stick to the rules.”

“I would urge you to lead by example and together we will come through this.”

It comes after Derbyshire Police was forced to rescind £200 penalty charges given to two women accused of breaking Covid rules after they travelled to a reservoir for a walk around five miles from their homes.

The force said, after review, it had apologised to Jessica Allen and Eliza Moore after previously describing their trip as “clearly not in the spirit of the national effort” to reduce travel and the possible spread of coronavirus.

Both women said they accepted the force’s apology and were glad to “draw a line” under the incident, while West Yorkshire Police Federation chairman Brian Booth on Monday urged the government to make coronavirus regulations “crystal clear” to stop officers “being made scapegoats for poor policy”.

Mr Booth said officers trying to enforce new rules have been “hung out to dry” as a result of “woolly laws”.

Additional reporting by PA