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Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR)

Use of ANPR by police forces and other law enforcement agencies (LEA)

Why we use ANPR

Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology is used to help detect, deter and disrupt criminality at a local, force, regional and national level, including tackling traveling criminals, Organised Crime Groups and terrorists. ANPR provides lines of enquiry and evidence in the investigation of crime and is used by LEA throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

How it works

As a vehicle passes an ANPR camera, its registration number is read and instantly checked against database records of vehicles of interest. Police officers can intercept and stop a vehicle, check it for evidence and, where necessary, make arrests. A record for all vehicles passing by a camera is stored, including those for vehicles that are not known to be of interest at the time of the read that may in appropriate circumstances be accessed for investigative purposes. The use of ANPR in this way has proved to be important in the detection of many offences, including locating stolen vehicles, tackling uninsured vehicle use and solving cases of terrorism, major and organised crime. It also allows officers’ attention to be drawn to offending vehicles whilst allowing law abiding drivers to go about their business unhindered.

Retention and access to stored data

At present around 13000 ANPR cameras nationally, submit on average around 55 million ANPR ‘read’ records to national ANPR systems daily.

ANPR data from each police force is stored together with similar data from other forces for a period of one year.

National ANPR Standards for Policing and Law Enforcement (NASPLE) and National Compliance and Audit Standards for Law Enforcement ANPR (Audit Standards) provide clear rules to control access to ANPR data to ensure that access is for legitimate investigation purposes. Members of staff only have access to ANPR data if it is relevant to their role and the majority of those who have permission may only do so for a maximum period of 90 days from the date it was collected. Some staff are authorised to access data for up to a year subject to authorisation of a senior manager.

Searches of ANPR data can confirm whether vehicles associated with a known criminal has been in the area at the time of a crime and can dramatically speed up investigations.

Camera locations

In addition to being mounted within police vehicles, ANPR cameras within police forces are used at fixed locations where they will help to detect, deter and disrupt criminality. In line with national policy, we do not disclose details of our fixed locations as this information is likely to be of benefit to offenders and if known could reduce the value of ANPR to policing.

National guidelines state that, if a police force proposes to install additional ANPR cameras, an assessment must be conducted that demonstrates a clear need, taking account of the following factors:

  • national security and counter terrorism;
  • serious, organised and major crime;
  • local crime;
  • community confidence and reassurance, and crime prevention and reduction.

In assessing whether new cameras are to be deployed, a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) will be undertaken. LEAs will consult with persons and organisations with a reasonable interest in the proposal unless that would be contrary to the purpose of the development, namely to detect, deter and disrupt criminality.

LEAs are also committed to regularly review the location of ANPR cameras, in the context of the above criteria, to make sure that the continued deployment remains justified. All reviews include consideration of the impacts on privacy.

Further Information

Data is processed within the National ANPR Service (NAS) by police forces and Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) for law enforcement purposes as joint controllers and processing is in compliance with Part 3 Data Protection Act 2018. The Chief Constable is accountable for the ANPR cameras operated within their force area. Detailed information regarding subject rights is available within the subject rights notice.(click to follow link - Documents)

ANPR: National Automatic Number Plate Recognition Strategy 2020-2024