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Embedding ANPR into mainstream policing

Introduced in 2002, ANPR is now a core tool for policing efforts across the UK, with in the order of 10,000 cameras providing 14 million feeds a year to the ANPR national data centre1. The volume of data which is available, coupled with the value of vehicle analysis to be included as part of a multi-source intelligence product, provides a powerful tool to create actionable intelligence to disrupt criminal behaviour.

PA has worked in and around ANPR since the original Project Laser pilot which tested the concept of ANPR through intercept teams and a mobile van. Our evaluation proved that ANPR intercept teams could arrest many more offenders and bring more offenders to justice than conventional methods of policing. Since the introduction of Project Laser, PA has supported the police in the use of ANPR including the Project Insight pilot that explored the ways to maximise ANPR as an intelligence tool.

Despite the initial roads policing and early intelligence benefits of ANPR its full potential remains unrealised. It is not yet a mainstream policing tool – there is limited awareness of its full benefits across investigations and ANPR data is not always well integrated with other crime and intelligence information. 

ANPR should be a mainstream tactic in forces for disrupting and diverting criminal activity but too often it is not considered. Total policing activity in large cities, for example, could routinely automate the analysis of vehicles known to be used by gangs to identify regular routes, storage locations or meeting places. ANPR cameras could also be routinely positioned on strategic road networks to disrupt serious and organised crime gangs by targeting key transit routes. Embedding ANPR as a core policing tactic provides a low cost approach to targeting all levels of criminality.

Below we explore how forces should be positioning ANPR to realise its full potential and build awareness as to how it should be embedded as a mainstream intelligence tool.

Better business as usual targeting of crime hotspots and transit routes

Cross referencing with other data sources can provide a powerful criminal business profile or network analysis of gang membership and MO. Proactive ANPR in vehicles and static locations can be used to intercept known gang-related vehicles to disrupt activities as a core tactic for level two and organised crime teams as well as the more traditional use in roads policing unit.

Building powerful data mining into ANPR will allow clearer patterns of behaviour to be identified, more easily linking ANPR data with other sources

As the IPCC report into the tragic case of Ashleigh Hall shows, ANPR offers lines of enquiry which are sometimes not followed-up due to the volume of reads. Forces are often not exploiting the potential intelligence from ANPR due to the difficulties in manipulating and running complex analytical queries on large volumes of data. The capabilities to automate this analysis do exist but Forces need to consider how to best invest and exploit them.

Tools should be available to sex offender managers to routinely identify ANPR hits related to registered sex offenders, or other potentially dangerous persons, to enable quick time response. Running these tools on the National ANPR Data Centre provides a level of reassurance from a national, rather than Force, perspective. This analysis capability needs to be more fully available at Force level. Major incident teams should consider ANPR as a core tool for any line of enquiry involving a vehicle. To quote AC Simon Byrne, “While the IPCC concluded it was impossible to say whether police could have prevented Ashleigh’s death, ANPR cameras picked up her murderer’s movements on several occasions before his arrest”.

ANPR is seen as a core tactic to defend high profile targets against ‘hostile vehicles’. Future deployment of ANPR could include data mining and matching tools to identify hostile reconnaissance where ANPR spots patterns (for example, same vehicle passed the target building ten times in last week, at 5am and 5pm.) This could be linked to facial recognition to provide a powerful weapon against those with hostile intent. Units such as Operation TRIDENT could benefit significantly from this type of intelligence.

Faster dissemination of a quality intelligence product in a more timely way – both to slow time users (such as analysts) and real time users (such as response officers and surveillance teams to more accurately assess threats and disruption opportunities.

Dissemination of intelligence products to those who need it in a timely manner has always been a challenge. However using ANPR data more proactively (in near real time) can become a very powerful tool in disrupting criminal movements (as shown by the Project Laser pilots). However, there remains a challenge, made more acute in the current financial climate, to expand the resources used to respond to a large number of hits that ANPR cameras can generate. This can be supported by:

  • dispatching general response resources to ANPR hits when roads policing units are not available

  • providing ANPR hit information via mobile data to roads policing units, armed response vehicles and other specialist units that could respond to ANPR hits when not performing their primary role

  • providing an ANPR capability to level two operational teams to contribute to covert intelligence gathering and the large scale disruption of criminal networks through vehicle intercept.

As more resources are used in response to ANPR there needs to be standardised command-and-control policies and processes at regional, force and cross –BCU level. This will ensure an appropriate response is provided and prevent missed opportunities for detecting and preventing crime. A culture of understanding the benefits of this information, and actively seeking to exploit it (including developing supporting business processes to facilitate it) needs to be created in force.

Embedding ANPR into mainstream policing

Total policing involves using total tactics available to the police to identify, disrupt and bring to justice gangs, organised crime groups and criminals who use the roads. Ten years on from the first introduction of ANPR as a roads policing tool, forces need to review their use of this technology and ensure the potential benefits from the significant investments are being fully realised. PA’s wide experience of supporting Forces to exploit technology, exploit data and support operational policing means it is in a unique position to assist Forces to review and exploit its investment in ANPR.

To find out how to embed ANPR into your mainstream policing activities please contact us now

1 Source:

Andrew Hooke
Government and public sector
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Søren Lehn
Government and public sector
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