January 3rd, 2008

The Holy Grail

Posted in The Job - Comment by 200

To many of the people involved in the decision making process ANPR is the way forward. 

ANPR stands for Automatic Number Plate Recognition & is basically a surveillance camera which recognises car number plates, sends details through to a database & flags up any vehicles which may be worth the police stopping. This can be for many reasons, the common ones being stolen cars, cars without insurance, cars owned by disqualified drivers or cars without a current keeper or tax.

ANPR is the Holy Grail at the moment. It can get tons of detections for very little effort. Because points make prizes, anything which can make the government look good by being able to say that the detection rate has gone up (again) is going to get much support from the decision makers.

The trouble is, whilst there is always an abundance of cash to set up a new system (much like PCSOs & CCTV systems) there is no additional cash to actually run it. Therefore there is no additional staff.

If you stick up a bunch of static ANPR cameras around the town, you need staff to make sure the info stored in the database is still current & correct, you need staff to create logs for each ANPR hit & you need police officers to go off and stop the cars and deal with turning a stop into a tick in the detections column.

The upshot on a local level is staff in the control room, who are already hard-pressed dealing with the current level of incidents having to do all the extra work for ANPR. Then you take the intelligence officers who are servicing the requests for information on the day-to-day incidents being told that this work will now take a back seat for ANPR intelligence. There are no extra staff.

Then you have to find police cars to sit near the ANPR cameras & officers to sit in them and wait for ANPR hits so they can stop the target vehicles. There are no extra officers so they have to come from somewhere else. That somewhere else is often the traffic department who have already been depleted over the last few years to the extent that the average motorist risks getting stopped by a traffic officer once every 4,579 years.

Traffic officers don’t educate the public about their driving any more; we leave that to speed cameras. The officers are too busy sitting under ANPR cameras.

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