This was the first article in a long series on police ANPR, based on the Freedom of Information request mentioned here. It eventually led to a Guardian page lead story in August 2012 – based on the information gleaned from the eventual failure of the FoI request, which revealed a “patchy” national system – and an article for MATTER published in August 2013 which I co-edited.
This article titled “Devon force divulges ANPR towns online” was written by SA Mathieson, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 19th August 2009 23.05 UTC
The webpage, which publicised the force’s appearance in Crimefighters, a fly on the wall ITV1 series, says the force has automatic numberplate recognition (ANPR) systems running in Torquay, Brixham and Dawlish in Devon.
This is in contrast to the force’s response to a Freedom of Information request from Kable, in which it refused to divulge any information whatsoever on the location of its ANPR equipment.
The page said ANPR “allows officers to use CCTV to monitor vehicles and use their registrations to call up details of the owners on a huge database”. The programme, which has already been broadcast, featured the work of different specialist units within the force including the traffic police.
However, in a Freedom of Information response to questions including the location of its ANPR equipment, the force said: “If the locations of these cameras were published, potential criminals would know where they are, and could bypass/avoid them or destroy them entirely. This would mean that the Force would be less able to detect and reduce crime on the roads.”
A spokesperson for Devon and Cornwall Police said that naming the towns was not the same as saying on which road the ANPR cameras are located: “They are quite big places, and they could be anywhere in the towns, so we wouldn’t have an issue with that.”
The page divulging towns where the force uses ANPR had been removed during the last few weeks, although it is still visible through search engine caching services. The spokesperson said that it is down as part of a redevelopment of the force’s website, and similar information might appear in future.
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