Big Brother Policing in the 21st Century
ANPR stands for ‘automatic number plate recognition’ and there are a number of reasons why you should know what it is and what it is capable of doing. ANPR technology isn’t new. Its been used on highways to monitor heavy vehicles for years and since around 2012 it has been fitted to almost all NSW Police Highway Patrol vehicles. It is now being introduced to general duties vehicles as well as being used by some shopping centres to enable ticketless parking.
What is automatic number plate recognition
ANPR in police vehicles consists of a number of infra red cameras fitted to the vehicle. These are then connected to a computer in the car, known as a mobile data terminal or MDT. The MDT runs optical recognition software and can detect up to 16 number plates per second. This can be done when the vehicle is stationary or being driven and operates just as well by day or night. It can detect the number plates of cars travelling both towards and away from the cameras. Once a number plate has been identified it is processed through the police and RMS databases.
What information does ANPR tell the police?
The ANPR system reads and processes number plates at a very high speed and triggers can be set to alert the police officer to various things. As ANPR is linked to both the police ‘COPS’ system and the RMS system the alerts available vary from system to system. The MDT is then programmed to emit a different sound for various results and the police can then choose whether or not to stop the vehicle. The effectiveness of ANPR was seen in 2016 when a highway patrol vehicle fitted with ANPR drove into the carpark of Windsor Police Station and unexpectedly the driver was alerted to the fact that two Police vehicles parked at the back of the station were in fact unregistered!
The RMS can alert the police to the following things:
- If the vehicle registration has expired
- If the registration has been cancelled
- If the owner of the car is suspended or disqualified from driving
The COPS system can alert the police to the following things:
- If the vehicle has been reported as stolen
- If there are any ‘intelligence reports’ linked to the vehicle
- If there are any ‘warnings’ attached to the vehicle
What if I’m caught driving an unregistered vehicle?
Registration labels were phased out in 2013. However with ANPR you are now much more likely to be caught if you are driving an unregistered vehicle. Police no longer need to look for certain coloured registration labels to see if your registration has expired – they simply drive around and wait for the MDT to tell them your car is unregistered.
The fines for driving an unregistered vehicle are now $659. If your car is unregistered it means you also don’t have third party insurance (a green slip) which is another $659. And in some instances, the police may also issue a fine for not paying road tax which is yet another $659 fine. You can drive an unregistered vehicle if you are driving directly to or from an authorised mechanic to obtain a pink or blue slip. Given the high likelihood that you may be pulled over we strongly recommend you book these appointments prior to leaving home so that it can be verified by the police and you can avoid over $1800 in infringement notices
What if my car has intel or warnings on it?
Through the link with the COPS database ANPR can alert Police if another officer has created an intelligence report about your vehicle or recorded a ‘warning’ on your vehicle. This can include things like prior occasions drugs or other illegal items were located in your vehicle or suspected to be in your vehicle.
In this situation, the police might stop your vehicle for an RBT and then speak with you further with the intention to search you or your vehicle. If this happens you should be polite but firm and comply with police requests. Refusing to be searched is an offence but you do need to make it clear that you do not consent to the search. Ask the police to record the fact that you do not consent and politely ask them why you are being searched. Police need to have a reasonable suspicion to search you or your vehicle and courts have said that intelligence reports alone are not enough.