ANPR cameras defended by police

HERTFORDSHIRE Police has hit back at claims made by pressure groups that the new automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras that will surround Royston are “spying on citizens.”

The cameras will take photographs of every car that drives in and out of Royston, storing its number plate on a national database.

But the East Anglia branch of campaigners NO2ID contacted The Crow this week to say the cameras were the next step in developing a “database state.”

ANPR manager inspector Andy Piper has responded by defending the scheme, saying the cameras will prevent crime.

“ANPR has been in Hertfordshire for over seven years now and has helped us to achieve the substantial reduction in crime we’ve seen over that time,” he said.

“We’ve caught thousands of serious criminals including burglars and drug dealers and removed unsafe vehicles and uninsured drivers from the road.

“As well as this there has been numerous stolen cars and vulnerable missing people traced by ANPR.”

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Mr Piper also refuted suggestions that the cameras would be hidden or that the details would be used unless a crime needed to be detected.

He said: “The ANPR cameras aren’t hidden - they are fully visible on the side of the road. The only details the camera takes is the number plate which is kept under national guidelines for two years for law-abiding drivers.

“The data won’t be accessed unless the registration is linked to crime, disorder or an unsafe vehicle.”

But Andrew Watson from NO2ID, which successfully lobbied against the national ID card scheme proposed in 2003, compared the situation to a communist state.

“Once upon a time Britain condemned communist regimes in Eastern Europe for spying on their own citizens,” he said.

“Yet here in Royston, today, every motorist who passes an ANPR camera is having their car recorded in a police database for years, even when there’s no suggestion that the driver has done anything wrong.”

Police also rejected allegations they had forced the closure of the website, which was offering a �20 reward to anyone who spotted the first camera.

“We did not ask for the website to be taken down, nor could we - quite the opposite,” said Mr Piper.

“We invited the owners to share their concerns with us and find out how ANPR is used in Herts. They haven’t taken us up on this offer.”