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Staffs cops place ANPR alley on M6

Staffordshire police sprinkle high-tech cameras on 40 mile stretch

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One police force area in the west Midlands appears to make much greater use of motorway automatic numberplate recognition (ANPR) than other constabularies.

Police in Staffordshire appear to be using ANPR cameras in at least four locations on the 40-mile stretch of the M6 within the county. This compares to only three sets on the 150-mile stretch of the motorway from Staffordshire's northern edge to the Scottish border.

GC News observed the distribution of police ANPR cameras, which have distinctive designs from other numberplate-tracking cameras used by organisations, at the start of September, and has since verified all but one of the M6 locations using Google Street View, on which the cameras are clearly visible. It is possible that cameras were installed at the other location since Google photographed the M6.

Such heavy use of ANPR, with a set of cameras between most junctions on the road, appears to be unusual outside major cities. Other motorways, including the M6 north of Staffordshire, often have ANPR cameras many miles apart.

Police ANPR cameras record the numberplates of all vehicles passing, and retain them for two years on a national database currently run by the National Policing Improvement Agency. Their locations are not normally disclosed by forces.

Staffordshire Police referred enquiries to the Central Motorway Police Group, which polices motorways on behalf of the Staffordshire, West Midlands and West Mercia forces. The group, which is co-located with West Midlands Police, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Staffordshire Police started using ANPR in 2000, according to a document on its website, making it one of the earlier constabularies to adopt the technology. Its 2007-08 budget publication refers to a request to increase its crime and intelligence budget by £164,000, to expand its 'Autonomy' project. This was to involve ANPR systems, as well as Holmes 2, the software used by police forces to run major investigations, and Socrates, Northgate's policing software suite.

The force's webpages on ANPR refer to it as a "fast growing technology" which the force uses to its "full potential... at local, regional and national levels together with other agencies".

This article was originally published at Kable.

Kable's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.

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