Home Office minister James Brokenshire released the figures in response to a parliamentary question from Labour MP Brian Donohoe. They show that 4,225 cameras were connected by police forces in England and Wales to the National ANPR Data Centre during the week of 5-11 January, with 3,888 in England and 337 in Wales.
An analysis of the figures by Kable suggests that South Yorkshire makes the greatest use by head of population of ANPR of English forces, with 247 cameras for a population of 1.3m – nearly 19 cameras for each 100,000 people.
The force said that its strong use of the technology was explained by its responsibilities for policing Sheffield, the fourth-largest city in the country, and 80 miles of motorway. “These cameras are used to tackle criminality on the county’s roads from targeting prolific car thieves to disrupting organised crime groups. Last year, the use of ANPR technology by South Yorkshire Police’s Road Crime Unit has assisted the team to recover over £1.8m worth of stolen vehicles, recover over £300,000 worth of drugs and stolen property and seize 834 vehicles being used illegally,” said chief inspector Stuart Walne, head of road policing in South Yorkshire.
He added that data on drivers is only shown to officers using the equipment if the vehicle has “police intelligence interest, such as use in crime or an uninsured driver,” in which case they decide what action to take. Data on other vehicles is retained, but can only be accessed through a written application.
“By using this technology there is less likelihood of disrupting an individual’s journey unnecessarily. It also means that police resources are being used more effectively by stopping cars based on specific intelligence, in this way ANPR is becoming a vital tool in targeting criminal use of the roads.”
A Freedom of Information release on the force’s website says that it uses ANPR in each of its district areas, along with fixed and mobile systems and CCTV cameras adapted to provide ANPR functionality.
Durham, with 94 cameras for a population of 506,000, has nearly as high a proportion in use as South Yorkshire. Meanwhile, Norfolk Constabulary made the least proportional use of ANPR, with 22 cameras for its 853,000 population, about 2.5 for each 100,000 people. It was also the smallest user of the cameras in absolute numbers. Other light users include Northumbria, with 48 cameras, and Devon and Cornwall, with 45, both with fewer than four cameras for each 100,000 people in their areas.
In absolute numbers, the Metropolitan and City of London Police Forces had the most cameras, with 473 in use on these dates. However, this does not appear to include London’s congestion charge cameras, which although primarily used for collecting data for payments are also used by police at some 700 locations in the capital.
West Midlands Police used 388 cameras, despite covering just one third of London’s population. Merseyside was the third largest user with 247, not including cameras on motorways in its area which are operated by the North West Motorway Police Group, which itself runs 117 cameras for the Cheshire, Lancashire and Merseyside forces. Cheshire does not run any other cameras, suggesting that it only uses ANPR on motorways.
The figures also show the national system was experiencing problems earlier this month: West Yorkshire had no cameras connected to the national data centre during the week in question, “due to a technical issue”.
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