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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 May, 2003, 12:47 GMT 13:47 UK
Number plate scan to be extended
Number plate
Police cross-check number plates
Computer scans of vehicles number plates are to be extended across England and Wales in the effort to trace criminals' cars.

The 4.6m automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) scheme will be used by 23 police forces to find vehicles which have been stolen or involved in crimes.

Drivers going on the roads without paying tax or insurance will also be targeted by the move, which the Home Office says follows a successful six-month trial.

In the experiment, conducted in nine forces, ANPR helped police recover more than 300 stolen vehicles, worth more than 2m, 715,000 worth of stolen goods and illegal drugs worth more than 100,000.

The trial has also seen the arrest of more than 3,000 drivers. Money from fixed penalty notices issued through the scheme will help to finance the ongoing project.


Home Office Minister Bob Ainsworth visited a demonstration of ANPR near Coventry on Thursday.

He said: "This crime fighting technology, coupled with officers' local knowledge and experience, means vehicles are stopped in a more focused, intelligence-led way, so honest motorists are less likely to be pulled over by the police."

Police chiefs hope that all 43 forces in England and Wales will be able to use the system by 2005.

ANPR is a powerful tool to fight crime
Frank Whiteley
Association of chief police officers
ANPR can detect number plates even when vehicles are being driven at more than 100mph - and it can check up to 3,000 plates every hour.

The Police National Computer, as well as DVLA and local intelligence computer systems, are among the databases used to check the plates.

One in 12 stops during the trial of the scheme produced an arrest and Mr Ainsworth described the results as "surprisingly good".

Frank Whiteley, heading a steering group on ANPR at the Association of Chief Police Officers, gave police backing to the scheme.

He said: "ANPR is a powerful tool to fight crime.

"We believe that by extending the technology, backed up by dedicated police intercept teams to all 2809 police command units in the country, we can effectively deny criminals the use of the roads."

Motoring groups are also pleased the scheme is being rolled out more widely.

Helping 'honest drivers'

Paul Watters, head of roads and transport policy for the AA, said the project would tackle dishonest motorists.

"Law-abiding motorists should have nothing to fear and will be pleased to see untaxed, uninsured and unregistered being caught in the act."

But Mr Watters said database records would have to be kept up to date.

He continued: "The other concern we have is cloned vehicles. We have seen problems with the London congestion charging scheme where vehicles have been closed on and the authorities are wrongly targeting innocent motorists...

"The DVLA and police should help the honest motorist in this situation by offering them re-registration or an official letter."

The police forces involved in ANPR are: Avon and Somerset; Cambridgeshire; Cheshire; City of London; Cleveland; Greater Manchester; Hampshire; Hertfordshire; Kent; Lancashire; Leicestershire; Lincolnshire; Merseyside; Metropolitan; Northamptonshire; Northumbria; North Wales; North Yorkshire; Nottinghamshire; Staffordshire; Warwickshire; West Midlands and West Yorkshire.

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