In an effort to meet targets and raise revenue, the UK Police are using the automatic number plate recognition database designed for catching criminals and terrorists to meet their financial goals and quotas.
Police whistleblowers also claim that intelligence stored on the national Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) database is “at least 30 per cent inaccurate”, which has led to the wrongful arrest of innocent motorists and the seizure of their cars.
The revelations highlight growing concerns about a burgeoning target culture among enforcement agencies and local authorities seeking to bolster figures and income with so-called soft arrests and fines on otherwise law-abiding members of the public.
ANPR was originally used in counter-terrorism operations in Northern Ireland. However, since the late 1990s it has been introduced on Britain’s roads. A network of static and mobile cameras surrounds major cities and monitors motorways and main roads. Each camera can capture over 3,500 images of licence plates and drivers an hour. The pictures are cross-referenced with police intelligence and data from DVLA and insurance firms to generate “hits” which are then sent to police.
The police themselves are encouraging such behavior by holding contests, which has led to the unethical behavior by the police. This includes scouring the databases to find something on a driver and harassing motorist until they become angry and belligerent, at which point the police arrest them for public order offenses.
Whistleblowers also expressed concern that managers are “engineering” arrests to meet targets. Officers have been sent to re-arrest drivers fined for driving without insurance. Before cars can be released from the pound the driver has to apply for insurance. “[Officers were] checking with insurers if Mr Smith had declared his recent penalty,” said one officer. “If the answer was ‘no’ they arrested him for obtaining insurance fraudulently.”
But not all police officers are taking part in this questionable behavior.
Hertfordshire officers say they have reported concerns to senior managers but believe they are being ignored, as good performance targets and revenue earned from ANPR are too important.
Other complaints from citizens include the use of CCTV cameras for parking offenses, over zealous enforcement of wheelie-bin etiquette, and unreasonably harsh littering fines.