First there was closed-circuit TV. Then speed cameras. Then DNA profiling, plans for ID cards, and cellphone data storage.
In March, Britain will enhance its reputation as the surveillance capital of the West with a global first: recording the movements of all cars on the road and storing the data for at least two years.
It’s a network of thousands of cameras harnessed to software that can read car license plates, check them against a central database, and alert police to suspected criminals or terrorists.Police chiefs are thrilled at the technology, arguing it will provide an unrivaled crime-fighting tool that will also aid antiterror efforts.
In regional trial runs, the number of arrests per officer shot up from around 10 per year to 100 per year. Convictions also increased.
The ANPR nationwide system will use the extensive camera network already in place as well as new cameras to capturelicenseplates from as many as 50 million cars a day and store them in a vast databank with date, time, and location stamps.
Within a matter of seconds, the database will signal whether the car may be of interest to police, cross-checking the plate against a list of stolen and suspect vehicles and also verifying for proper insurance, taxation, and roadworthiness. Dedicated ANPR operators will then alert roadside units to the rogue vehicle.