More than a dozen cameras which quickly read registration plates and alert officers to a wide range of offences are set to be installed in the force’s patrol cars.
Staffordshire Police currently utilises 64 fixed ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) devices which cover 109 lanes of traffic around the county and flag up not just motoring offences – but whether the vehicle is being used for criminality.
In addition, a number of the force’s Road Policing Unit’s marked and unmarked cars boast ANPR cameras and software which give officers access to information about what issues surround the vehicle highlighted to them.
Now 14 more patrol vehicles are set to be kitted out with ANPR technology while the force will also take delivery of two more ‘mobile’ devices which officers can install in different locations in response to a crime trend or route used by offenders.
The move comes as part of an investment in the technology which has been made possible thanks to funding from the Staffordshire Commissioner’s Office generated by the police precept, which forms part of council tax bills in the county. It has also been used for upgrades around ANPR software.
Chief Inspector John Miles, of Staffordshire Police’s Knowledge Hub, said: “A lot of people will think we use ANPR for motoring offences but they are used for a lot more. We use them 24/7 and it is a fantastic tool to gather intelligence and then interrogate that data.
“As vehicles pass through ANPR cameras, the registration is read and instantly checked against a database of vehicles of interest. Additionally a record is stored, which includes those for vehicles that are not known to be of interest at that time but may in appropriate circumstances then be later accessed for investigative purposes. We will continue to maximize the opportunities that this technology provides us in Staffordshire in the prevention and detection of criminality.”
Information around a vehicle can be logged to warn officers over threats the occupants may pose, but to also help them track down cars being used by missing people.
Officers with the force’s Road Policing Unit say the ANPR devices fitted on their vehicles are vital crime-fighting tools.
Sergeant Tony McKenzie said: “The devices give us the most up-to-date intelligence on cars travelling through Staffordshire and will instantly alert us to those vehicles which we need to stop.
“Having the ANPR devices in the cars is as good as putting a red arrow above a vehicle which should be pulled over. We can read the information relating to that vehicle and decide what action is appropriate.”
Inspector Mark Joynson, of the Road Policing Unit, added: “This helps us deal with people for a range of offences from having no MOT or insurance to being wanted. It gives our officers all the information they need and gives us a picture of who may be in the vehicle.”
Staffordshire Commissioner for Police, Fire and Rescue and Crime, Matthew Ellis said: “I took the decision last year to ask people for additional funds to invest in more resources to protect our communities.
“The Road Policing Unit is one of the areas that directly benefited from that money. This investment in ANPR technology will help to deter criminals, as well as making roads across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent safer for everyone.”