ANPR CCTV systems: What you need to know


ANPR CCTV refers to a combination of Automatic Number Plate Recognition and Closed Circuit TV. The integration of these two technologies uses optical character recognition (OCR) and image processing to automatically read and interpret vehicle number plates.

These powerful surveillance systems typically consist of cameras, software, and databases that work together to capture number plate information, process it, and perform various tasks based on the data collected in real-time.

With cameras strategically positioned to capture clear images of vehicles and their number plates, the captured images are then processed using software, which extracts the alphanumeric characters from the number plates and converts them into machine-readable data.

Integrated security

The integration of ANPR with CCTV aids law enforcement, and it has also automated several repetitive tasks with huge efficiency advantages:

  • Toll collection and congestion charging: ANPR is now widely used in toll collection systems and congestion charging schemes. By capturing number plate information, it enables automated billing and enforcement of toll fees and congestion charges, eliminating the need for physical toll booths and reducing congestion.
  • Parking management: ANPR is increasingly employed in parking management systems to monitor vehicle entry and exit, verify payment compliance, and enforce parking regulations. It can detect vehicles that have overstayed their allotted time or have not paid for parking, facilitating efficient management of parking spaces and automated barrier release.
  • Border controls: ANPR plays a crucial role in border control and international security measures. It can track vehicles entering or exiting a country by road, boat or rail, helping authorities identify suspicious or wanted vehicles, enhance border security, and prevent smuggling or other illicit activities.
  • Traffic monitoring and management: ANPR CCTV can be deployed for traffic monitoring and management purposes, such as on smart motorways. It can capture and analyse vehicle movements, monitor traffic flow, detect violations (e.g., speeding, driving erratically or the wrong way), and provide valuable data for traffic planning and optimisation.
  • Vehicle identification: ANPR CCTV enables the automatic identification and tracking of vehicles. By capturing number plates, the system can quickly extract information about a vehicle, such as its make, model, colour, and registration details. As the systems can generate real-time alerts when specific events occur, such as detecting a stolen vehicle, or a vehicle associated with criminal activity, these alerts can be immediately relayed to law enforcement or security personnel for appropriate action.

Benefits of ANPR

  1. Crime prevention: ANPR is an effective tool for crime prevention and investigation. It can be used to identify stolen vehicles, vehicles involved in criminal activities, or vehicles associated with individuals of interest. By scanning number plates and comparing them against databases, law enforcement agencies can quickly locate and apprehend suspects.
  2. Improved efficiency: ANPR systems automate the process of capturing and interpreting number plate data, which enhances efficiency in various applications, such as traffic enforcement, toll collection, and parking management. It reduces the need for manual intervention and streamlines operations and costs.
  3. Enhanced security: ANPR aids in crime prevention and investigation by providing real-time alerts and identification of vehicles associated with criminal activities. It contributes to public safety and helps law enforcement agencies apprehend suspects.
  4. Accurate data collection: ANPR systems offer accurate and reliable data collection, reducing the chances of human error. The captured information can be stored and analysed for statistical purposes, traffic planning, and evidence in legal proceedings.
  5. Cost savings: ANPR eliminates the need for manual processes and physical infrastructure, such as toll booths or parking attendants, which can result in cost savings for transportation authorities and parking management companies.

ANPR and the UK police

The police are strong advocates of ANPR, using the technology to help detect, deter and disrupt criminal activity at a local, force, regional and national level. This includes travelling criminals (those using the road network to avoid being caught), 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.

ANPR on public roads and highways

As a vehicle passes an ANPR camera, its registration number is read and instantly checked against database records of vehicles of interest. Police officers have the authority to stop a vehicle, speak to the occupants and, where necessary, make arrests.

Data storage

A record for all vehicles passing a camera is stored, including those for vehicles that are not known to be of interest at the time of the reading. At present, ANPR cameras nationally, submit on average around 60 million ANPR ‘read’ records daily. The ANPR data from each police force is stored together with similar data from other forces for one year.

National ANPR Standards for Policing and Law Enforcement (NASPLE) and National Compliance and Audit Standards for Law Enforcement ANPR (Audit Standards) have clear rules to control access to ANPR data to make sure that anyone who does so is only doing it for official investigation purposes. Staff only have access to data if it’s relevant to their role. Most of those who have permission may only do so for a maximum of 90 days from the date it was collected. For serious, major or counter terrorism investigations some staff may be given access to data for up to one year, subject to authorisation by a senior officer.

Camera locations

As well as being in police vehicles on dashcams, ANPR cameras are also used at fixed locations around the UK. In line with national policy, these locations are not revealed as the information is likely to be of benefit to offenders and could reduce the value of ANPR.

Vehicle cloning

If you think your vehicle has been cloned, when a criminal puts your vehicle’s number plate on another vehicle to hide the identity, to carry out criminal activity or to avoid tickets, parking fines, or toll and congestion charges you should report it to the police immediately. If have you received a ticket that you suspect is the result of your vehicle being cloned, report it and notify the DVLA. You can then contact the organisation that issued the fine, explain your vehicle has been cloned and request cancellation. Tell them the DVLA and police have been informed and send supporting evidence if available, such as a crime reference number.