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Moving up a gear: Embedding ANPR into mainstream policing

“ANPR should be a mainstream tactic in forces for disrupting and diverting criminal activity but too often it is not considered."  


richard bailey, pa police expert






Richard Bailey, Carl Roberts and Rob Smith

Police Professional

14 June 2012   


PA Consulting Group’s Richard Bailey, Carl Roberts and Robert Smith discuss how automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) could become a powerful tool in combating today’s serious and organised crime threats.

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 centre. 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 Consulting has worked in and around ANPR since the original Project Laser pilot which tested the concept of ANPR through intercept teams and mobile vans. 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 Consulting Group has supported the police in the use of ANPR including the Project Insight pilot that explored 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.

In the article, PA's experts 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.Their four key actions are:

  • Better business as usual, targeting of crime hotspots and transit routes

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

  • Faster dissemination of a quality intelligence product in a more timely way

  • Embedding ANPR into mainstream policing.

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