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Editor's Blog and Industry Comments

Queen's birthday honour for ANPR pioneer

16 June, 2008
Inspector Nick Purdie of the Northamptonshire police gained an MBE this weekend for his work on bringing automatic number plate recognition to the streets of the UK
Britons are used to ANPR technology now, there's nothing new about it and the novelty quickly wore off. The most obvious public face of the technology are the least popular such as average speed cameras and congestion charge boundary cameras but these represent just the visible edge of a technology that has enabled the police to delve deep into the heart of serious crime prevention and even anti-terrorism.

The road to achieving such exciting applications for ANPR was not an easy one however and required dedicated and unswaying efforts to bring it to fruition. The first hurdle was recognising the potential for the technology and obtaining funding to enable that potential to be realised.

The British Police always regarded the technology as something more than merely assisting traffic management and securing convictions for road traffic offences. However, even in this regard, the technology proved to be extremely useful and ultimately self-funding through increases in road fund license revenue and income from convictions. In this respect, the technology is self-justifying but the real meat lay in crime prevention and detection.

For this, a pilot project was set up some 5 years ago involving 23 police forces from throughout the country each of which set up intercept teams trained in the use of the technology to use it for identifying and intercepting vehicles of interest to the police.

The results were staggering with over 13 thousand arrests having been made in less than two years with recovery of drugs amounting to £380,000 and stolen property worth £640,000 according to the Home Office report, "Driving Crime Down". This represented the thick edge of crime prevention but the minor end which pays for the technology was also fruitful with over 50,000 fixed penalty notices having been issued for a variety of traffic and excise offences.

With this backdrop, there was no clear reason not to go for a full deployment which brings us to where we are today with ANPR being seen as an accepted part of the toolbox of law enforcement agencies. With links to the Police National Computer and the National Intelligence Model, ANPR provides the police with a mechanism for reducing the kind of motoring offences which, if left unchecked, put the cost of motoring up for every driver such as tax evasion and driving without insurance. More importantly, however, it makes life a lot harder for those involved in serious crime and that's where the real value lies.

Implementing such a system requires the dedication of a large team of people and Nick Purdie's award this weekend proves that those efforts don't go unrecognised.
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