We use Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology to help detect, deter and disrupt criminal activity at a local, force, regional and national level, including tackling traveling criminals, organised crime groups and terrorists.

ANPR provides lines of enquiry and evidence in the investigation of crime and is used by forces throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

How it works

As a vehicle passes an ANPR camera, its registration number is read and instantly checked against database records of vehicles of interest.

Police officers can intercept and stop a vehicle, speak to the occupants and, where necessary, make arrests.

The use of ANPR in this way has proved to be important in the detection of many offences, including locating, for example, persons wanted for arrest or missing, witnesses, stolen vehicles, tackling uninsured vehicle use and uncovering cases of major crime.

How data is stored

We have clear rules to control access to ANPR data to make sure that anyone who does is only doing so for legitimate investigation purposes.

Staff only have access to data if it's relevant to their role and the majority of those who have permission may only do so for a maximum period of 90 days from the date it was collected.

Some staff may have access to data for up to one year. Under certain circumstances, and subject to authorisation from a senior officer, access to data older than 90 days can be granted. This is usually for more serious investigations.

Searches of ANPR data can identify vehicles associated with crime and terrorism and can dramatically speed up investigations.

Camera locations

In addition to being mounted within police vehicles, ANPR cameras are used at fixed locations. In line with national policy, we do not disclose details of those locations as this information is likely to be of benefit to offenders and if known could reduce the value of ANPR.

National guidelines state that, if we propose to install additional ANPR cameras, an assessment must be conducted that demonstrates a clear need, taking account of the following factors:

  • national security and counter terrorism
  • serious, organised and major crime
  • local crime
  • community confidence and reassurance, and crime prevention and reduction.

In assessing whether new cameras are to be deployed, a Privacy Impact Assessment will be undertaken. We will consult with persons and organisations with a reasonable interest in the proposal, unless that would be contrary to the purpose of the development, namely to detect, deter and disrupt criminality.

We're committed to regularly review the location of ANPR cameras, in the context of the above criteria, to ensure that the continued deployment remains justified. All reviews will include consideration of the impacts on privacy.

ANPR and the Freedom of Information Act

Find information about ANPR released under Freedom of Information Act requests in our FOI section.

Find more information about ANPR and policing on the National Police Chiefs' Council website.