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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 April, 2003, 12:35 GMT 13:35 UK
Number plate scan increases arrests
Number plate
Police cross-check number plates
Trials of new ways of using CCTV have shown that the police can dramatically increase the number of arrests they make.

According to figures seen by BBC News, when police forces linked road cameras to computer databases they were able to increase arrests per officer more than tenfold.

Nine forces in England and Wales have been testing the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system, crime correspondent Neil Bennett reports.

Cars being driven by people suspected of committing offences are picked up on camera and register an alert on the police national computer and other intelligence databases.

This is one of the best crime-fighting tools of recent years
Supt Martin Campbell

Arrest teams are sent in and results from the six-month trials show that arrest figures in the forces involved went up from 10 per officer to 108.

Superintendent Martin Campbell, of Cleveland Police, called it "one of the best crime-fighting tools" the police had acquired in recent years.

"This sends a message to criminals who are using the roads that if they are using them to commit crime the police now have the technology to identify when you are on the roads and we will stop you," he said.

Police research suggests that people who drive without road tax or insurance are also more likely to commit offences such as burglary and theft.

Senior police officers believe that this is a revolutionary new tool in the fight against crime and are keen to extend the scheme.

They would also like to see a percentage of revenue from on-the-spot fines ploughed back into ANPR, Neil Bennett said.

Avon & Somerset
Greater Manchester
North Wales
West Midlands
West Yorkshire
The scheme was launched in November 2002 under a Home Office initiative to reduce crime.

A spokeswoman said that while the trial finished at the end of March, the data was still being analysed.

But the feedback from forces on the initial month of the trial had been good.

At that point, senior officers reported the arrest of 10 times more offenders than patrol officers would catch in the course of a whole year.

The nine forces taking part in Project Laser were Avon and Somerset, Greater Manchester, Kent, Metropolitan, North Wales, Northamptonshire, Staffordshire, West Midlands and West Yorkshire.

The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"The number plate is separated from the rest of the image"

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