In City of Bath, Cameras Scan License Plates for Criminals

Crime reporter

A HI-TECH net is being cast over Bath to catch criminals as they drive in or out of the city.

CCTV cameras covering the major routes into the city have been hooked up to a computer system that can scan the number plate of every passing car and search databases of wanted crooks.

The automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology uses 30 databases, including those of police forces across the country, to track criminals on the move.

When the number plate of a car registered to a wanted criminal is picked up by the system, the vehicle can be intercepted by nearby patrols - which can also prevent high speed police pursuits.

This is the first project of its kind in the south west and the equipment has been installed and trialed in the city over the past month.

During the tests 70,000 car registrations have been scanned leading to 14 arrests.

Most of these have been court dodgers wanted on warrants, including one man wanted on a charge of causing grievous bodily harm in Leamington Spa.

As well as catching wanted criminals, the system's link with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, can catch people driving without licenses or while disqualified.

District commander for Bath, Chief Superintendent Dave Hayler, said: "The ANPR technology has proved hugely successful as an intelligence tool as well as detecting and arresting people who have committed offences.

"Vehicles are used for a whole raft of crime, including the transportation of drugs and stolen property, and transport for offenders to and from robberies and burglaries.

"I am confident that the use of ANPR technology in Bath will have a positive effect on reducing crime and ensuring the area remains a safe place to live and work.

"It is not about persecuting the motorist, but bringing criminals to justice. Criminals are not welcome in Bath and the use of this technology will ensure just that."

The city's 46 CCTV cameras are operated by Bath and North East Somerset Council and are monitored in a control room at the Guildhall.

Cllr Vic Pritchard, the council's executive member for community safety, said the scheme built on the partnership between the local authority and the police.

"The success of ANPR within Bath city centre shows the value of this partnership," he said.

"All future planned extensions to the current CCTV system will be ANPR compatible and will ensure that Bath is a safer place to work in, live in and visit."

ANPR project manager, Graham Watkins, said the force already had plans to roll the scheme out throughout Avon and Somerset.

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