Page last updated at 19:00 GMT, Monday, 19 May 2008 20:00 UK

City cameras to catch every car

ANPR cameras
The information will be stored on a central computer for five years

Almost every car travelling into Manchester is being snapped by a new network of police surveillance cameras, it has emerged.

Each day, 600,000 motorists' journeys are being captured, and police will store the data for five years to help combat terrorism, crime and car theft.

But civil rights campaigners said they believed it was another step closer to a "Big Brother" state.

Police said the new system would bring "enormous benefits".

Manchester is the first city outside London to use Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras in this way.

Police will store details of the licence plate, colour of car and a time stamp on a central computer.

The cameras have been installed on the 12 major routes into the city.

'Protect communities'

The system records vehicle details and checks them with the Police National Computer, the DVLA database in Swansea and also local police intelligence databases.

It can identify stolen vehicles, track cars used by terrorists, criminals and banned drivers and spot car tax and insurance dodgers.

But civil rights campaigners fear the system means drivers are being subjected to "mass surveillance" as they go about their daily business.

James Welch, legal director of the civil rights group Liberty, said: "We have no problem with its use to locate vehicles whose owners police firmly suspect of having committed an offence.

"But it shouldn't be used for mass surveillance, or to target people the police have a hunch are up to no good."

The fixed cameras began operating this month, with details - not photos - fed to the national database.

They scan details of cars travelling at up to 100mph.

Greater Manchester Police also uses mobile ANPR systems in patrol cars and there are fixed cameras in other places, including the Trafford Centre.

Ass Ch Con Dave Thompson said the fixed cameras "will bring enormous benefits and aid us in protecting our communities".

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