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Last Updated: Monday, 6 November 2006, 16:07 GMT
Vehicle surveillance fights crime
Dartford bridge
North-bound vehicles were searched at the Dartford tunnel
Criminals using vehicles to carry out terrorism, drug trafficking and other offences are being targeted by a new vehicle surveillance police agency.

The Home Office funded service will exploit the "electronic footprints" of vehicles to know where criminals travel and where they operate.

It was launched at the Dartford crossing where more than 6,000 vehicles travel between Kent and Essex an hour.

North-bound traffic was stopped and checked for drugs and illegal fuel.

The checks were run by police officers using sniffer dogs and drug trace detection technology, and also customs officials.

The scheme uses number plate recognition technology, which police say allows them to target major criminals - such as suspected terrorists and gang members - and those operating at the lower end of the spectrum such as those with no insurance.

Industry, banks and insurers have been crying out for a service that has a coherent approach
David Ainsworth

Assistant Chief Constable David Ainsworth said the scheme would collate a "clear picture of intelligence from across the country".

He told police officers that it was "an example of how we intend to operate in the future".

He said: "As vehicle technology has become more difficult to penetrate, police skills in relation to vehicle crime have diminished significantly.

"We will exploit the electronic footprints. We will know where criminals travel, where they operate around Europe and the world."

And he added: "Industry, banks and insurers have been crying out for a service that has a coherent approach to vehicle intelligence."

The Kent, Essex and London police forces are currently working on the scheme, set up by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).

Operating from Coventry, the ACPO Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service will be rolled out across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Five random days of vehicle checks are scheduled to take place at Dartford this month.


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