back to article Police have more than 10,000 ANPR cameras

Police have confirmed that forces in England and Wales are passing up to 14m reads per day from automatic numberplate recognition cameras to a national database. All but two of England and Wales' police forces are passing data to the National ANPR Data Centre, run by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) on behalf of …


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  1. Andy 97
    Thumb Down


    Sorry, when did the UK get taken over by the East German government circa 1973?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Big Brother


      It was 1997 as I recall...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother


    You know what? I'm just sick of all this fannying about.

    Lets just get it over and done with and get every man woman and child in the UK surgically implanted with tracking devices and all vehicles fitted with similar tech by law.

    Anyone who doesn't agree should be assumed to be a terrorist and locked up. Anyone visting the UK must have one fitted or not be allowed in.

    It is the inevitable destination of our surveilance spiral and at least this way we can save ourselves the expense of them incrementally building up to it.

    1. Iggle Piggle


      Well it was recently revealed that the Dutch police were keeping similar pictures from a handful of cameras for three months and there were (rightly) complaints that this was against the privacy laws.

      However the Dutch governments next move is to aim to fit all cars with GPS by 2012 so they can monitor road usage. They have not quite gone as far as forcing you to wear a tracking device yet.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      You've just gotten FAIL all over your face

      You honestly think the MPs and their families will be "plugged", or that HRH will be, either?

      Great frakkin' mentality; just take it somewhere else, k?

    3. magnetik

      Re: FFS

      "It is the inevitable destination of our surveilance spiral and at least this way we can save ourselves the expense of them incrementally building up to it"

      That attitude is exactly what the powers-that-be want in their population. I'd rather the government waste some tax money on a failed scheme than roll over like a dog and accept a loss of liberty.

      Freedom comes at a price. Luckily for you it's not your life at stake, just a few tax dollars. WW2 veterans must be rolling in their graves at how soft and pathetic the populace has become.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        That wasn't

        the comment of someone resigned to the notion, but of someone raising awareness of it by mentioning it, probably using irony ('probably' because I don't have time to spend working out if it really, really is irony).

  3. Anonymous Coward


    "Any prolonged retention would need to be clearly justified based on continuing value, not on the mere chance it may come in useful."

    Isn't that the reason for not deleting innocent people's DNA from the DNA database? The mere chance that it may come in useful?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters

      Pictures speak a thousand words

      Has anyone here seen an ANPR camera picture?

      Do we all know that the ANPR cameras take a photo of the whole of the front of the car? i.e. they include the face of the driver as well as the number-plate.

      The number-plate recognition software limits surveillance at present, but it won't be long before they can do facial recognition and see who was driving vehicle as it passed the camera (and who was the passenger).

      Are they talking about 'prolonged retention' of the raw digital photos or the output of the number-plate recognition software? (i.e. number-plate and date-time).

      My bet is they are keeping the photos whilst waiting for more powerful software solution, then they'll be able to say "It was Winston Smith driving B19 BRO down the M4".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I have seen a picture ...

        In fact, I've seen many, and your statement is incorrect. Whilst some cameras can take a picture of the whole of the front of the car, the majority of ANPR cameras are forward-facing and take an image of the rear plate.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Standing corrected then

          I've only seen the whole front of car ones; thanks for the clarification.

          Does this vary by force then?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward


            Varies by the type of camera reporting the plate and the source of the data. Some cameras (eg those use for calculating journey times) are only capable of sending textual data anyway, so doesn't matter which way it is pointing.

            Actual usage varies from force to force, and from council to council.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Think its been done

        all ready, wasn't there a system telling motorists to slow down in roadworks, done by number plate recognition, then DVLA look up and subsequent display.

        Can APNR clock foreign number plates?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Foreign plates

          Yes, foreign plates can be seen, although ability to do so depends on the software in the camera. It already has to support 7 styles of UK plates, so think how many variations would be needed to support the EU.

          Having said that, most are configurable as to which countries will be identified. Around ferry ports, for example, they're likely to support more countries than those in rural areas which will probably only look for the most common - GB, NI, IRL & FR.

          It may also depends on what the plates are being used for that determines how the cameras are configured.

  4. MPT

    busy cop camers then!!

    14 million a day, by my reckoning they should have every car in the country covered in a couple of days, plenty of time for a vat of coffee and a stack of doughnuts then the rest of the year off. cushy job whomsoever got that one me thinks

  5. DannyAston
    Big Brother

    Big Brother

    Is watching!!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Big Brother

      is here.....

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    All those cameras and...

    They still haven't managed to catch sight of my motorbike which was stolen the other week. :(

    1. Cameron Colley

      They're not for preventing, or sovlving, crime, silly.

      The cameras are just there to provide more data so more computers need to be bought, so that whichever company it is that is paying kickbacks to those in power can make more profit.

      The police don't work for us any more than the government do -- they work for whoever slips them the biggest wad of cash.

    2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Or my rally car ...

      ... come on, what use are they if they can't find a stage prepared rally car (i.e. tends to stand out from the crowd)?

  7. david bates

    How many...

    do the likes of TESCO have monitoring their parking policy?

    They assure me that the data is thrown away immediately if you leave the carpark within the time limit, but what assurance do we have that the gov. won't apply a little pressure to allowing mining of said data?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Big Brother


      Unlike phone tapping which requires authorisation from the Home Secretary, MI5 / special branch / CTU can access such 'private sector' surveilance sources pretty much at whim...

  8. Wize

    Do they work on those silly numberplates?

    The ones with script writing? I've seen one driving around for years. Probably swaps it out at MOT time. Dam thing is as hard to read as a capcha box.

    1. Paul 4


      Which is why they are band.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        No problem. People who think that just changing the font on their car plate will stop them being tracked are barking up the wrong tree.

        What we really need are LCD panels that fit ove rthe plate and change the number at random intervals. If/When you get pulled over by the plod, change it back, and watch their confused little faces.

      2. Wize

        @ Paul 4

        "Nope → # ↑

        Which is why they are band."

        But doesn't stop them driving about with the things

  9. Richard 120

    Critical Mass

    I like the critical mass thing, that when a volume of data reaches a certain point then the security of said data needs to higher.

    Nobody's ever been able to tell me what that quantity is or how to measure it though :-(

  10. Craig Vaughton
    Black Helicopters

    Another money spinner?

    So presumably the next step will be to allow suitably registered agencies or persons (Private Investigators, lawyers, CSA) to access the database, for a small fee of course and ascertain the movement of individuals to assist with inquiries?

    So if you're planning an affair, take the bus!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Buses have cctv on them.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      All the buses I've seen in the last however many years

      Have CCTV. Presumably exactly the same conditions apply.

  11. mamsey

    Garage forecourts?

    Does this include data from garage forecourts cameras? As this would slew the results significantly.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    ACPO = private limited company

    Can someone please explain to me why a PRIVATE LIMITED COMPANY is taking over police tasks?

    According to their own web site the ACPO is:

    "The Association has the status of a private company limited by guarantee. As such, it conforms to the requirements of company law and its affairs are governed by a Board of Directors."

    Reminds me of the out-of-control private police forces in third world dictatorships...

  13. Velv

    And the point is ......

    Nothing in the article about how this information is being used (yes, yes, to prevent crime, but HOW).

    If we believe the figures on uninsured or no MOT (10%), then that's more than a million hits a day. Are the Police actually following up on the registered keeper ?

  14. Sir Runcible Spoon


    Why won't they tell people how many camera's, who has them and where they are deployed?

    What have they got to hide then?

    Be curious to know how many false plates there are out there and how many more there will be once the great unwahed get wind of this mass population control^H^H^H^H^H^H tracking device.


  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Brilliant if your car is cloned.

    Now you can get done for speeding, stealing petrol and hopping red lights without even leaving your house.

    1. Tim Hughes

      Actually ...

      With this many cameras about, it should be a trivial matter for the system to determine that multiple hits on a particular registration have occurred close enough in time, and far enough apart in distance that it cannot be the same vehicle so some cloning has occurred. Flag up the registration as suspect and they get stopped. If you are the rightful owner you suffer the inconvenience of a stop, but find out that a clone exists, if not you're nicked.

      In this particular instance (only), I reckon it is actually useful to have lots of cameras.

    2. Neill Mitchell


      and it is down to you to prove you are innocent, not the other way round. WTF!

    3. JohnG

      Brilliant if your car is cloned - Personalisation

      This is why it is a good idea to personalise the area of your car in the area of front and rear number plates. Obscure bumper stickers should be enough - maybe stickers from countries which the great unwashed are unlikely to visit.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    These cameras have been slowly popping up on all of the main roads into and out of Barnsley over the past months. Barnsley FFS. Scary if this is also happenning in other towns and cities to the same degree. However, once you know where they are they can be avoided in most cases, and in one case by driving past the local plod HQ.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I live in Barnsley on a major road into town that joins Sheffield Road and the damn things are dotted along there on various lamp posts and all approaches to various roundabouts including along Wakefield Road near Staincross (eastfield arms).

      Here is the kicker, I don't drive (not banned just never learned) and quite frankly I think it is

      another overbearing invasion of privacy like other monitoring devices but people won't listen !

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge


      They are just planning ahead.

      One day we will run out of Russian gas

      Then we will have to go back to coal

      Eventually there will be a strike

      The police will want to be able to stop pickets

      This time they can do it without having to stand around on the M1 in the cold.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    In other news...

    ...UK supermarkets have more than 10,000 trollies.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    ... insert massive overeaction big-brother anecdote here ...

    Yes, how terrible of the Police - definately smacks of Big Brother, being able to track your clandestine trips to... erm... the shops, your Auntie Edna, your Moms, down the M3 to the South Coast.

    Just think, they could profile you via your movements (although not of the bowel variety yet) - how terrible is that? Couple that with all the data the supermarkets are collecting and soon they'll be able to tell just how deviant you are!

    What type of condoms did Mr.Tuttle buy from Tesco before driving 60 miles to visit a hooker with a bad cheese habit?

    ... snip ...

    The knee-jerk reaction from netizens about anything to do with surveillance is so predictable, it's no longer funny - actually, it is, but also a bit sad.

    Common sense and logic get flung out the window in favour of fictional scenarios, usually based around Orwells 1984 - the government is always watching!


    A Big Brother style state is impossible unless our current democracy completely breaks down - no change in government, no elections etc.

    This nightmare scenario requires ruthless centralised power - a dictatorship.

    It also requires competence - something our governments are usually massively short of.

    And we'd need a massive 'sense of humour' failure, not something I can see happening in a hurry.

    So pack your tin-foil hats away and catch a bloody wake up already.

    Yes, we all know you'd love to wake up one morning as Neo, realising it's all just a construct and we're slaves - and then sock it to the machine! (... and give Trinity one for the lads)

    The reality is, you'll wake up one morning and get a traffic fine through the post, then go to work and have a sandwich at lunchtime and plan the pissup on the weekend, where you'll discuss just how shit this country is and how nice it would be to move to somewhere sunny, whilst being filmed by CCTV cameras...

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Democracy *has* broken down ...

      There is no discernable difference between the choices offered to the electorate.

      Legitimate concerns of the population are ignored.

      The police are allowed to act in defiance of the law.

      The number of bodies allowed to "investigate crimes" goes through the roof.

      The burden of proof is effectively reversed.

      The list goes on, but the point is that we're deluding ourselves if we don't think we are close to living in the equivalent of the Czech Republic in the 1960s.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    In vehicle cameras used by all Police

    I presume everyone here knows that all Police patrol cars (the Volvos with multiple antennaes) run these camera recognition systems. I have been stopped and taken into a patrol car for a false accusation on my vehicle twice. While I was inside I saw the monitor fitted between the dash that was constantly running and processing number plates. When I was running my car around on M.O.T expiry to a testing centre I avoided getting to close to a patrol car or turned off the road. Its these that do most of the spotting/work.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Selective stopping

      Why aren't they constantly busting the 20% of young drivers with no insurance and identifying the 6.5% of all drivers representing 2-million uninsured cars on the road?

      They must see them go past all day long, but choose not to stop them all ... but they obviously liked the look of you.

  20. Neiljohnuk


    "The number of police cameras is significantly more than the 6,600 ANPR units run by the Highways Agency and Trafficmaster. These do not transmit full numberplates, as they are used to calculate the speed of traffic over sections of road."

    Er, I don't think so, IIRC they used the information from Traffic Master to successfully support a murder case against a contract killer who'd driven up from London to Glasgow, killed the target, then drove back, it was after that the HA and Police started to really into ANPR.

  21. Lionel Baden

    ITS ALL A LIE !!!

    they have capacity for well over what they need to allow for growth, without another 4.2 million been spent on some mp's cousing third uncle's fledgling cctv business.

    i dont believe it for a min....

    though on a sensible note

    i am not happy to have my vehicle location tracked constantly but at the same time i dont really care all that much.

    just wish they would use it for good e.g. tracking stolen vehicles etc ....

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And another thing

    Again what power does the ACPO have to make policy for this?

    And why isn't there a law that says that retention must be restricted to the minimum necessairy for the stated purpose, and no more? If the police can't manage that, they can't be trusted to manage retaining anything at all. In which case the database is more of a danger than a benefit and therefore they mustn't be allowed to retain anything whatsoever.

  23. Ken Smith 1
    Big Brother

    Why keep the data so long

    They know who the people of "interest" are to them and the vehicles they drive gained from other intelligence, so keeping the data relevant o their travels is somewhat justifiable, but why keep the data every time one of us nip to Tescos?

    And who needs them to disclose the ANPR site, they are easy spotted with the exception of the CCTV converted ones which are a bit harder.

    @Another money spinner

    I should certainly hope not, that would be unacceptable

    @Silly number plates

    I believe these get flagged for a "human" to check

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters

      People of "interest"

      Obviously new people of "interest" keep popping up all of the time. So, when a new one comes onto the scene, it's probably very useful to have a look at where all the vehicles they have access to have been going to and coming from over the last few years.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    14 million hits a day?

    Then how did I manage to drive on main roads (A33, M3, M4) every week for seven months without getting caught for not having a valid MOT?

    Lack of MOT was due to oversight on my part. Got it sorted yesterday. AC obviously.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Big Brother

      Big Brother isn't watching me

      I did the same thing, only 4 months, only realised when my car tax was due and it wouldn't let me pay. So got it sorted yesterday.

    2. Britt Johnston

      need not be 14 mio cars

      It could be the same few (thousand) who fit fake numbers to fast machines, and get photoed thousandfold on a single trip.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Are these numbers right?

    10k ANPR-enabled cameras?

    14 mill index numbers/day

    1400 index nos/camera/day

    24 hours/day

    56 index nos/hour

    1/min on average per camera? Hhhmmmmm....

    Still a damned cheek.

    Any self respecting, passingly intelligent thief or serious terrorist intent on crime will be at least half aware of ANPR camera locations and will be taking steps to eliminate or manage their detection or apprehension. So we are left with either (The substantially innocent) Joe public or self detecting stupid thief being tracked and for what purpose. Meanwhile The serious and serial perps responsible for most of the worst crime and its development remain untracked and untrackable. And were is Tony Blair at the moment?

    Were is the research that shows these systems are effective at anything they were put in to counter - indeed what were they put in to counter?

    In a related piece of bollox, I understand speed cameras were put in on the Nottingham ring road to "catch Speeding motorists" with the fines being used to in part pay for the system. Motorists picked this up quickly and fine revenue plummeted leading to howls or outrage from the system implementers and not a few red faces. I'm not at all sure that accidents were reduced but I'm sure the Notts police can tell you if they are not busy passing exam answers to colleagues, shoplifting or making John Terry look more than a little innocent in relation to his sexual misdemeanors.

  26. SirTainleyBarking

    So when did ACPO

    Become a statutory organisation then? AFAIK they are still, in law, a private company!

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Where it falls down

    1: Car cloning of legit cars means they cant easily track criminals or other persons of interest.

    2: As ACPO is a private limited company they cant hide behind the "ongoing investigation" clause the police have over data protection requests so anyone can freely ask for the data and be given it. Why invest in expensive company car tracking, get ACPO to do it for you !

    Black Helicopters - ACPO's company vehicle it seems!

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @All those cameras and...

    Ha! Try this. Late last year my bike got nicked near a major junction in a bike bay next to a very busy road. Loads of cameras.

    A week later the police wrote to me and said it hadn't been found and they considered it case closed.

    Three weeks later I received a parking ticket for the bike, which had been given the DAY AFTER it was nicked, parked in the NEXT STREET.

    Of course I never got it back...

    So much for 10,000 fucking cameras... Useless plods.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Yes, sorry about that

      Problems like that will be dealt with when we roll out phase 5 of the programme and broaden our range of monitoring camera protection to also include residential streets. By that time we also hope to have perfected our behavioural analysis software. Of which, roll out will commence in phases 8 and 9. You will have nothing to fear soon.

  29. James 47

    Easy to defeat?

    Wear a t-shirt with your/random number plate image on it. Confuse the hell out of the cameras.

    All they record is an image of a number plate, it has no idea if it's a real number plate or not.

    This might involve walking along a busy road though.

    1. Haku


      Find out where there are some/many cameras that track you by your registration plate, especially ones that do average speed calculation, then get a bunch of cyclists all wearing shirts with the same fake numberplate on the back.

      Now proceed to cycle past the cameras, with 100 meter gaps between each cyclist. Repeat many times.

      Probably the best way to make the point about the damn cameras would be to have shirts made up with the registration of a well known politician / police chief etc. to really stir things up.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    who's up for an nice LCD numberplate?

    You know...the one that can be anything you want? The're not all that expensive and mighty entertaining as you mimic your favourite MP and drive like a wanker.

  31. Nebulo
    Big Brother

    I must be old fashioned

    because I happen to think that, 'just maybe', these private companies, IF we mandate them to do it at all, should have had talks "to ensure that data retention is appropriate and proportionate" BEFORE they started stashing away millions of pictures per day. An activity which seems to have 'inappropriate and disproportionate' written all over it.

    Big Bro icon - appropriate and proportionate for pretty much any story about the UK these days.

  32. Eden


    Most motorbikes get lifted into the back of a van then either shipped abroad or broken into bits and sold as scrap and parts so this isn't very handy for finding those.

    Also it relies on Databases which are a pain in the ASS when they go wrong.

    Case in point when I bought an SV650 a few years back from a chap way up North, me living down south.

    Got pulled over randomly by the plod who ask me my name etc.

    When I ask why I was stopped they said it was a random stop check as they were wondering what I was doing so far away from home.

    I explained I was 2 miles from home thankyou very much.

    Seems the plods Database still had the bike registered to this guy up north, not me, despite the DVLA paperwork and tax all being up dated (the tax and my ID i had naturally - bike ownership docs, of course not).

    Queue subtle allegations of me having stolen the bike etc etc and 10 minutes by the roadside before someone finally comes back over the radio telling them to let me go.

    I was NOT impressed to say the least and don't look forward to a massive growth of these which will be inevitable.

    That said just as Inevitable is that a lot of clones/crimes/thefts will be stopped or solved with this system so meh....

    1. green_giant

      Are you me?

      I had an almost identical experience. Although I had recently bought mine so had every document on me. Was fun watching the police look over ownerships documents. reciepts for purchase etc/

  33. David 45

    Nothing to fear

    If you're doing nothing wrong. Hmm.

    Just where is the consultation or law-making that allowed the installation of said cameras? Seems to be a fait accompli to me. Just sneak them in, chaps. No-one will ever notice!

  34. Anonymous Coward

    So the usual police state commentards.

    On a more factual basis the cameras are located on motorways, bridges in or near cities and a shed load in patrol cars. As a guy who rides a motorbike I'm glad they are their because the more people they stop without road tax or insurance the less chance I have of being killed by some gormless teenage twat.

  35. Anonymous Coward

    Does anyone please know...

    What the deal is with the law and hand written number plates?

    Say mine fell off or were stolen or whatever and I put up a piece of card in the back and front windscreens with the reg on it.

    Where do I stand with that?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Don't do it.

      It's illegal. You will probably be stopped and fined.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When will they be available on Google?

    At first, I thought this seemed like just another set of data ripe for inclusion in Google's Universal Individual Location Tracker for Higher Ad Revenue Margins. Then I realized that they lack a good way to present the advertising specific the the car and its driver. Certainly can't send a text message or web page to the car; don't really have many dynamic signs/billboards; short-range radio "stations" along the roads have been tried (without the personalization) but failed.

    Google has many, much-more effective methods for tracking people in their physical movements and their electronic/network activities -- Google and Google Maps on your cell phone with GPS/location awareness, Adsense, Analytics, Picasa, blogs, searches, ... They are already pushing ads tailored to your profile, recent searches, and current physical location.

    BTW I don't believe there is currently anything preventing Google from returning search results favoring pages that display Google Ads over those that do not, or even excluding pages that contain ads from competing ad services. Several years ago, Google quietly revised many "legal" documents (e.g. Terms of Service, Privacy). You probably need to read the current versions.

    For Google to be interested in this data, they would need to be pushing ads at those searching for cheating spouses, competition making sales visits to clients, and anyone curious of the lives of others -- celebrities, politicians, family, neighbors, or whatever. Even just Google Streetview has already generated some difficult questions, "Why was his car ever in our driveway at 6:00 am?"

  37. Echelon_watches

    Don't believe it !!!!

    What a load of cobblers !!!!

    I can assure you peeps that fixed ANPRs are used for FACIAL recognition.

    Ever hear the cops say 'associated' with this bloke or that ?

    Yup that's what they are for. They are not interested in your motor; it's your FACE they are after which is matched instantly to a digital photo from your passport, driving licence, Govt ID card etc.

    This is then plotted against your car and your Mobiles' Geolocation to show where you have been. I've seen the printouts.

    This bunch have got the processing power to do it AND they use it.

    Be VERY afraid.

    Start wearing Burkas or balaclavas in yer cars to keep them away from your front door at 6 AM. and take your Mobile battery OUT when not in use. It can be switched on remotely at will for tracking.

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