Oxfordshire county council initially refused to provide the locations of its then-new ANPR traffic camera sites, but did so when I requested the data under Freedom of Information – to its credit, only nine days after I asked. Police forces have taken a somewhat less co-operative view on this subject.
Oxfordshire CC said it has spent £700,000 installing ANPR cameras to manage traffic within and around Oxford. In the last few weeks it has put up six electronic signs on roads around the city, which next year will provide data on local journey times using speeds calculated from ANPR data.
The Highways Agency is already using ANPR to predict journey times on motorways, but Oxford is an early adopter of its use in an urban area. It was one of the first to introduce park and ride buses, and Oxfordshire CC is currently implementing 20mph limits on most of the city’s roads.
Oxfordshire had previously refused to release the locations of its ANPR cameras, but has now done so in response to a Freedom of Information request from GC News. Last year, it said that if it disclosed the locations, the public could work out which cameras belonged to the council and which ones were operated by Thames Valley Police. The police force also refused to say where its ANPR cameras were located, saying this would undermine its ability to fight crime.
A council spokesperson told GC News that there had not been a change of policy leading to the disclosure of its sites.
According to the FoI release, the county has so far installed ANPR cameras at 35 sites, plus the six electronic road signs, with plans to add another 14. The existing cameras are on the A40 to the north and west of Oxford and on the city’s Eastern Bypass ringroad, and on the five main roads which lead into the city centre.
Each route has between two and five ANPR cameras in the directions tracked, allowing journey times to be calculated. On some roads the cameras extend several miles into surrounding countryside, although most are within Oxford.
In its FoI response, Oxfordshire also provided details of the information security arrangements used for ANPR. “The encrypted number plate data is sent to the in-station and held for as long as it is needed in order to find a vehicle match,” the county said. “It is then deleted. If a certain amount of time passes (no more than three hours) without a match being found the data is deleted.”
The next phase of the scheme, which the county said is likely to go ahead this year or next, would add cameras to streets including Cowley Road in the south-east of the city, where locals have campaigned unsuccessfully against the installation of conventional CCTV cameras. The cost of this has not yet been finalised.
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