Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR)
Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology is used to help detect, deter and disrupt crime at a local, force, regional and national level. It allows the police to tackle travelling criminals, organised crime groups and terrorists.
ANPR provides lines of enquiry and evidence for crime investigations and is used by forces throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
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 then stop a vehicle, check it for evidence and, where necessary, make arrests.
Searches of ANPR data can also 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.
The use of ANPR has proved to be important in the detection of many offences, including locating stolen vehicles, tackling uninsured vehicle use and uncovering cases of major crime. It also allows officers’ attention to be drawn to offending vehicles whilst allowing law abiding drivers to go about their business.
In addition to being mounted within police vehicles, ANPR cameras 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 we propose to install additional ANPR cameras, an assessment must be carried out 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
When assessing whether new cameras are to be deployed, a Privacy Impact Assessment will be carried out. We will consult with people and organisations with a reasonable interest in the proposal unless that would be contrary to the purpose of detecting, deterring and disrupting criminality.
ANPR data from West Midlands Police is submitted to the National ANPR Data Centre (NADC) where it is stored together with similar data from other forces for a period of two years.
We have clear rules to control access to ANPR data to ensure that access is for legitimate investigation purposes. 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 two years subject to authorisation of a senior officer. After 90 days, access may only be for serious, major or counter terrorism investigations and after 12 months only for major investigations and counter terrorism purposes.
We are committed to regularly reviewing the location of ANPR cameras to make sure that the continued deployment remains justified. All reviews will include consideration of the impacts on privacy.
The Surveillance Camera Code of Practice defines guiding principles for the use of ANPR which are applicable to police systems. In addition National ANPR Standards for Policing (NASP) also provide the framework for the operation of ANPR by the police and other law enforcement agencies.