Police in New Zealand are expanding their use of automated technology to catch criminals and make the roads safer for all users.
Assistant commissioner of road policing Dave Cliff says the police's use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology has already proven successful in removing high risk drivers, unsafe vehicles and criminals from the road.
The technology, which has been in use by Police since 2009 in five patrol vehicles is now being fitted in an additional 13 vehicles in the Police fleet. One of the new vehicles recently went into service in the Bay of Plenty, with another to go to Tasman district shortly.
The remaining vehicles will be rolled out to police districts and the Commercial Vehicle Investigation Unit gradually over the next few months.
The units cost $35-40,000 each, including installation into the vehicles. Depending on traffic flow, the ANPR unit is capable of scanning up to 3000 plates in one hour.
Using cameras mounted on the roof of the patrol vehicle, the ANPR system scans the number plates of passing vehicles and feeds the information to a computer inside the vehicle. The system instantly checks the details against information already held by Police about vehicles of interest, and if found, it alerts the officer for follow up.
"The ANPR unit only captures the number plates of those vehicles that are of interest to Police, such as those that may have been ordered of the road or are otherwise unsafe, or that have been used in crime," Mr Cliff says. "It does not capture any personal information about drivers or passengers, and is operated without disrupting law-abiding road users."
Mr Cliff says the technology simply automates a process Police normally have to do manually via an officer calling a radio dispatcher – and accesses information that Police already hold.
"The advantage of ANPR is that it provides the vehicle information to our officers instantly in real time, so they are able to make a decision on the spot and respond immediately if they need to take action."
Mr Cliff says strict protocols govern the use of ANPR, with all information recorded by the system deleted after 48 hours.
"It's important to stress that the technology is vehicle-focussed, so average law-abiding road users have nothing to worry about. However, it has proven a very effective tool for Police in removing unsafe vehicles and high risk drivers from the roads – including those who are disqualified or otherwise forbidden to drive – as well as capturing wanted criminals.
"The law-abiding public tell us they don't want to be sharing the roads with these kinds of people, and the rollout of these additional units will help Police to keep the public safer."