Automatic Number Plate Recognition

How police forces and other law enforcement agencies use Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR)

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Why we use ANPR

Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology is used to help detect, deter and disrupt criminality at a local, force, regional and national level, including tackling travelling criminals, Organised Crime Groups and terrorists. ANPR provides lines of enquiry and evidence in the investigation of crime and is used by law enforcement agencies 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, check it for evidence and, where necessary, make arrests. A record for all vehicles passing by a camera is stored, including those for vehicles that are not known to be of interest at the time of the read that may in appropriate circumstances be accessed for investigative purposes. The use of ANPR in this way has proved to be important in the detection of many offences, including locating stolen vehicles, tackling uninsured vehicle use and solving cases of terrorism, major and organised crime. It also allows officers’ attention to be drawn to offending vehicles whilst allowing law abiding drivers to go about their business unhindered.

Retention and access to stored data

ANPR cameras from police forces submit copies of vehicle registration marks to the National ANPR Data Centre (NADC) daily. ANPR data from each police force is stored together with similar data from other forces for a period of two years.

We have clear rules to control access to ANPR data to ensure that access is for legitimate investigation purposes. Members of staff only have access to ANPR data if it is 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 are authorised to access data for up to 2 years subject to authorisation of a senior officer.

Searches of ANPR data can confirm whether vehicles associated with a known criminal has been in the area at the time of a crime and can dramatically speed up investigations.

Camera locations

In addition to being mounted within police vehicles, ANPR cameras within police forces are used at fixed locations where they will help to detect, deter and disrupt criminality. In line with national policy, we do not disclose details of our fixed locations as this information is likely to be of benefit to offenders and if known could reduce the value of ANPR to policing.

National guidelines state that, if a police force proposes 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. Law enforcement agencies 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.

Law enforcement agencies are also committed to regularly review the location of ANPR cameras, in the context of the above criteria, to make sure that the continued deployment remains justified. All reviews will include consideration of the impacts on privacy.

Further information

The Chief Constable is the data controller for the ANPR system operated within their force area. Requests for information or complaints should be made to that force.

Additional information and copies of relevant documents are available at