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Basic Things You Should Know about ANPR in 2016

Automatic Number Plate Recognition or ANPR technology is used to deter, detect, as well as disrupt criminal activities at regional, local and the national levels. It provides lines of enquiry as well as evidence in criminal investigation. The UK boasts of an extensive ANPR CCTV network. Security services and Police forces use it for tracking vehicle movements.

Automatic Number Plate Recognition or ANPR is a surveillance process making use of optical character recognition for reading vehicle registration plates. Road rule enforcement cameras or closed-circuit televisions are used for this task. ANPR may be used for storing images captured by cameras and the text from license plates. The systems chiefly use infrared lights to allow cameras take pictures at any time of a given day.

Development History

ANPR was invented in the year 1976. Developed by the Police Scientific Development Branch, the Prototype systems had begun working by 1979. The trial systems were employed at the Dartford Tunnel and A1 road. However, it did not gain popularity till new developments in cheaper as well as easy to use software came into being in the 1990s. Though the first arrest was made by detecting a stolen car through ANPR, the first documented case where ANPR came to aid was in 2005. Here, ANPR played a significant role in locating followed by subsequently convicting the offenders.

How ANPR Works?

As a vehicle passes the ANPR camera, the registration number gets read as well as instantly checked against the records maintained of vehicles of interest. The Police officers can stop a vehicle, interrogate the driver and the passengers, check for evidence and if essential, arrest, too. Record is maintained of all the vehicles passing by the camera even if they are not vehicles of interest. This aids detecting offences and makes it easy to locate stolen vehicles, solve cases of terrorism, tackle uninsured vehicle usage as well as the major and more organised crimes. It allows turning the attention of the officers to the offending vehicles while making space for the law abiding citizens to go on about their business unhindered.

How Many Cameras are a Part of the ANPR Network?

It is tough to guess the exact figure. In the year 2006, the Government approved a plan to install 2000 ANPR cameras in the UK. Around three years ago, the Home Office pointed out that there were around 4000 cameras in operation. But presently, it is assumed that the figure has touched the 8000 mark.

Stored Data Retention and Access

Presently, around 25 to 30 million ANPR ‘read’ records are submitted to the National ANPR Data Centre every day. The data from the police force along with similar information from other relevant sources are stored for 2 years.

The Police force observes a few rules to ensure that the data is used for legitimate investigation reasons only. Member of the staff can access this data only if it is relevant to the role played by them. The majority of the staff is moreover permitted to access the data for 90 days from the period it was collected. At times, the staff can access this data for a period of two years but in that case, it must be authorised by a senior officer.

Checking out on the ANPR data helps to ascertain whether the vehicle of a known criminal was present when the crime took place; this can speed up investigation dramatically.

How useful is ANPR for Tackling Criminal Activities?

The Police force simply loves ANPR. They insist that the network aids detecting, deterring and disrupting ‘criminality’. This includes tackling the travelling criminals, the organised group crimes as well as terrorists. Here is an attempt to trace the complete process step by step.

  • The camera identifies the number plate. This is usually done using an infrared beam reflecting off the number plate
  • A software takes the number plate; it adjusts the contrast and the brightness and skews it so that the numbers are ‘straight on’
  • The software picks out the numbers and passes the information to other requisite programmes. Standardisation of the typeface and number plate size has helped in developing the accuracy of the ANPR systems substantially.

Though ANPR is in popular usage now, there are a few difficulties that the software needs to cope with.

  • Poor file resolution; this can be because the plate is far away, but this may also be the result of using a low-grade camera
  • Blurred images
  • Poor lights and low contrast caused owing to reflection, shadows and overexposure
  • Reading license plates that are different at the front and the back
  • Objects obscuring a part of the plate
  • Vehicle lane change
  • Lack of coordination

Kent Charlie is associated with a vehicle registration agency that also deals with DVLA private number plates. He has also been writing for many online publications on a freelance basis. Kent loves travelling and adventure riding, which he often does alone. Collecting heritage car number plates is one of his passions and he takes pride of that. He also loves to learn about progresses in automobile sector.  

Views: 685

Tags: ANPR, Number, Plates, Registration, technology


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