Police unveil new crime fighting weapon

SUFFOLK Police today unveiled its new weapon in their fight against vehicle-related crime with a system that monitors and records vehicle number plates.

SUFFOLK Police today unveiled its new weapon in their fight against vehicle-related crime with a system that monitors and records vehicle number plates.

The Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system, which will be deployed around Suffolk, operates by video recording car number plates and checking the details against police records.

Police hope the scheme will help them trace vehicles that have been involved in a crime.

Superintendent Mick Warden, of Suffolk Police, said: "The scheme will target criminals who have been involved in criminality. Today's criminal almost invariably relies on a vehicle to commit offences. This system is so advanced it can weed out vehicles used by criminals as they travel on roads across the county – regardless of traffic density or speed.


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"Looking for a criminal can be like looking for a needle in a haystack but this will offer us a better chance of catching them."

The video cameras used to monitor the vehicles will be deployed from inside an eye-catching gold, white and black van, which will be parked at suitable locations around Suffolk.

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It will check the details of each vehicle passing the camera to see if it has been involved in a crime. If it has, an alarm will sound and an interceptor vehicle – located around a quarter of a mile away from the van – will be alerted and will stop the vehicle.

The nation-wide scheme, which is being funded by the Home Office, will target drivers who have committed road traffic offences, including disqualified drivers and tax dodgers, and also vehicles that are wanted in connection with crimes.

The scheme hopes to work in tandem with the Suffolk First initiative, which hopes to make Suffolk the safest county in the country by 2006.

"ANPR fits neatly within the aims and objectives of Suffolk First in that it can help make the county safer by catching criminals and by providing a visible presence on the county's roads, making people feel safer," said Supt Warden.

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Experience has shown that stopping a vehicle when a motoring offence has been committed can often lead to arrests for more serious offences.

Each force in England and Wales has been provided with a mobile ANPR unit by the Home Office.

Suffolk's unit has a unique colour scheme, featuring the Suffolk First logo.

Mobile ANPR units are capable of checking up to 3000 number plates per hour per road lane.

Strict guidelines and procedures are in place to ensure systems are operated in compliance with the Data Protection Act 1988 and the Human Rights Act 1998.

Nine forces – not including Suffolk – are taking part in a six month trial to establish best practise use of the technology.

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