August 14th, 2009

We know where you went

Posted in The Job - General by 200

An essential crime-fighting tool or a case of the state snooping too far?

Figures released in the Daily Telegraph suggest that the average motorist has their car photographed 100 times a year by the ever-growing web of ANPR cameras.

Automatic Number Plate Readers are cameras linked to a massive database which records every vehicle which passes it 24-hours every day of the year.

In split seconds they are able to interrogate the Police National Computer to find out who owns the vehicle & whether it is stolen, insured, taxed & MOT’d or of other police interest.

‘Of police interest’ could be any number of reasons from driver wanted for murder, number plates from it reported stolen to driver reported missing or involved in crime.

Within a second or 2 of the vehicle passing an ANPR camera, a warning is sent through to the local police control who can circulate details to any nearby patrols to get the vehicle stopped.

A photograph of every vehicle which passes the camera is recorded on the database which in many cases is clear enough to identify the driver & any occupants.

A profile can be built up of the journeys of every vehicle recorded so in theory, the police could be waiting for you on your regular journey to or from the pub or could find out which towns you were in at what time on what date.

There are currently some 34million vehicles in the UK, estimated figures based on enquiries with 27 UK forces show that around 3billion number plates were recorded last year.

ANPR has been a highly effective tool in the detection of crime & criminals, thousands of stolen cars are found as a result of ‘pinging’ ANPR cameras. However, it not only records details of ‘vehicles of police interest’ but all vehicles. A photograph of you on an illicit journey with your  bosses wife sat next to you could be sitting on a police database right now (only if you have been in such circumstances, obviously).

Tory MP, Charles Hendry said: “There is a balance that needs to be struck between fighting crime & infringing the freedom of the law-abiding public. Law-abiding people should feel they can go about their business without being snooped on by the state.”

So, an essential crime-fighting tool or a case of the state snooping too far? You decide.

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