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Technology to make roads safer for all reaches Northland

Technology to make roads safer for all users reaches Northland

Police is expanding its use of automated technology to catch criminals and make the roads safer for all users.

Northland has recently received a vehicle with Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology, which has already proven successful in removing high risk drivers, unsafe vehicles and criminals from the roads.

Northland Road Policing Senior Sergeant John Fagan says during the last two weeks officers have been trained in the use of this new and exciting technology and it has already proven itself as a useful tool for police to detect high risk drivers, stolen vehicles and other vehicles of interest.
During training last week staff located a stolen vehicle from Auckland travelling north near Whakapara. The two occupants were arrested and now face charges relating to the theft of the vehicle.

The technology, which has been in use by Police since 2009 in five patrol vehicles, is widely used overseas, and in August this year Assistant Commissioner Road Policing, Dave Cliff announced that the system was going to being fitted in an additional 13 vehicles in the Police fleet. The vehicles have been rolled out to police districts and the Commercial Vehicle Investigation Unit.

Using cameras mounted on the roof of the patrol vehicle, the ANPR system scans the number plates of passing vehicles and feeds the information to a computer inside the vehicle. The system instantly checks the details against information already held by Police about vehicles of interest, and if found, it alerts the officer for follow up.

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Mr Fagan says Northland has experienced all sorts of weather conditions over the last few weeks and the ANPR system operates equally well in rain or fog, day or night.
"This vehicle will be deployed across the Northland Policing District with the possibility of a second vehicle being available for operations by our Commercial Vehicle Investigation Unit."

The ANPR unit only captures the number plates of those vehicles that are of interest to police, such as those that may have been ordered of the road or are otherwise unsafe, or that have been used in crime.
It does not capture any personal information about drivers or passengers, and is operated without disrupting law-abiding road users.

The technology simply automates a process police normally have to do manually via an officer calling a radio dispatcher – and accesses information that police already hold.
Mr Cliff says it's important to stress that the technology is vehicle-focused, so average law-abiding road users have nothing to worry about. However, it has proven a very effective tool for police in removing unsafe vehicles and high risk drivers from the roads – including those who are disqualified or otherwise forbidden to drive – as well as capturing wanted criminals.

"The law-abiding public tell us they don't want to be sharing the roads with these kinds of people, and the rollout of these additional units will help Police to keep the public safer.
"That has been supported by our experience with ANPR to date, which reveals strong links between unsafe vehicles, unsafe drivers and criminality. Use of ANPR has led to the arrest and conviction of criminals for offences other than those for which they have been stopped, making it a valuable tool in fighting crime."

Mr Fagan says this was highlighted in Northland when a vehicle was reported as having driven off from a Tikipunga petrol station without paying for the fuel. Two hours later the same vehicle was detected by the ANPR system and stopped south of Whangarei. The driver turned out to be a disqualified and her passenger had three warrants for her arrest resulting in the vehicle being impounded and court appearances for the occupants.

The units cost $35-40k each, including installation into the vehicles. Depending on traffic flow, the ANPR unit is capable of scanning up to 3000 plates in one hour. Units will be located where it is possible for the police to safely intercept vehicles without undue risk to staff or other road users.


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