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  • What are ANPR cameras

    ANPR technology has been used in the UK since the late 1970's to track vehicle information, but it wasn't until more recent years that law enforcement began harnessing its power to crack down on crime. ANPR cameras have become a common sight all over the UK—so much so that you may not even notice them when you drive by. What started out as a simple system to store vehicle information has evolved into crucial crime-fighting technology.


    What does ANPR stand for?

    If you haven't heard of ANPR before, here's a quick definition: it stands for "automatic number plate recognition," but really, it's a fancy term for "cameras that read number plates."

    What are ANPR cameras?

    An ANPR camera captures the registration plate and location data of a vehicle. An encrypted database stores the information, which will be combined with other data sources to provide real-time traffic information. As a result of using this information, the police will be able to respond more efficiently to incidents and emergencies.

    How do ANPR cameras work?

    ANPR works by converting an image of a number plate into readable text through optical character recognition software, which is then cross-checked with the relevant database.

    ANPR cameras capture an image of the entire vehicle and extract text from the number plate. The picture quality of ANPR cameras varies according to their purpose. Traffic and speed cameras require up to 8 megapixels for ANPR technology to capture clear images. Car parks and high-security access points require only 2 megapixels to read number plates accurately. For number plate recognition up to 40 metres away, ANPR cameras are fitted with varifocal lenses, anti-glare headlights, and long-range IR illuminators.

    What do ANPR cameras look like?

    If you happen to get caught speeding (something we don't recommend), you might be surprised to see a camera that looks nothing like the big, yellow ones we all know and fear. With changing technology, it’s no surprise that ANPR cameras come in all shapes and sizes—and unless you’re paying very close attention, or have memorised them all (which could well be a challenge), you might not even realise that some of these cameras are there to catch you speeding.

    The two main types of ANPR cameras are mobile and static. Mobile cameras are used by police vehicles and can quickly move around from place to place; they’re often placed on top of the dashboard of the car and can capture number plates as they pass. The other type is static: these are put up at various locations around the country, waiting patiently for their moment.

    What are ANPR cameras used for?

    ANPR technology is used by law enforcement agencies and private companies, including the police, local authorities, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). They are used to detect and deter crime, to control traffic, or ensure security.

    Law enforcement:

    Over the last few decades, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of cameras in public and private spaces. ANPR cameras have become more and more prevalent in Britain since they were first introduced in the late 1970s. Today, there are around 11,000 ANPR cameras capable of generating over 50 million ANPR records each day.

    ANPR cameras are used by law enforcement agencies, such as the police and local authorities, to detect and deter crime. The technology is most commonly used to track down stolen vehicles, but it can also be used to locate drivers who are uninsured or who have failed to pay their vehicle tax. These cameras have enabled police forces all over the country to keep close tabs on high-risk areas for criminal activity.

    Traffic control:

    Every day, road users pass under the watchful gaze of 1,100 distinctive bright green cameras used by Highways England. At 500 sites across the country, they watch over traffic to calculate journey times and, with some clever technology, to control the flow of traffic through variable speed limits.

    When a vehicle passes an ANPR camera, the number plate is read and converted into a reference number known as a tag. The same vehicle will generate the same tag every time it passes by one of these cameras. The time it takes to travel between any two points can be calculated by cross-referencing the location of each tag.

    Car parks:

    ANPR parking uses a method of payment known as ticketless parking, which eliminates the need for drivers to buy a ticket from an automated machine and then display it on their dashboard. Instead, ANPR systems use number plate recognition technology to scan a vehicle’s number plate as it enters, and again as it leaves the car park. The system then automatically deducts the appropriate amount from the driver’s account. This kind of payment system has several benefits for owners and local authorities, including the ability to track available spaces in real time and calculate accurate fees based on how long a car has been parked there.

    ANPR systems offer another advantage: they provide additional security by matching the vehicle’s number plate to the ticket issued, preventing ticket fraud. Timed photographs taken from ANPR systems can also give an accurate record of how long a vehicle has been parked there.


    ANPR camera systems are also used at prisons, private warehouses, and other secure sites. These systems can work with pre-set lists to deny or grant vehicles access depending on their number plate. By preventing unauthorised personnel from entering, ANPR technology ensures the safety of those inside the premises. 

    What do ANPR cameras check?

    There are a variety of things that automatic number plate recognition cameras are able to identify or calculate:

    • A vehicle's average speed
    • Vehicles that are uninsured
    • Vehicles that have not been taxed
    • Travel times in traffic
    • The flow of traffic
    • Bus stops
    • Stolen vehicles
    • Terrorism, major and organised crime incidents
    • Parking in car parks
    • Toll roads
    • Box junctions
    • London's congestion zone

    Can ANPR cameras check MOT?

    While it seems unlikely that ANPR cameras would be used to enforce MOT compliance, it is possible. The information from the number plate on a given vehicle is transmitted to an ANPR system, which then runs checks on the vehicle’s registration and road tax status. If the system finds that the vehicle has a valid road tax but hasn't been registered with a valid MOT certificate, it can create and issue a ticket, or take other appropriate action.

    Benefits of ANPR cameras

    - ANPR systems are able to capture images at speeds of up to 300 km/h (185 mph), which makes them ideal for motorways and busy city streets. This also means that images can be captured faster than a human officer could ever achieve through visual detection alone, which gives officers time to focus their attention on other areas of interest, such as observing other vehicles or individuals in public areas where they may be at risk of harm or crime.

    - ANPR cameras are changing construction site security. Compared to standard definition, high-definition capabilities mean you can see everything going on around your site clearly. With evidence captured by an ANPR camera, it becomes much easier to identify suspects and bring them to justice. No more worries about criminals getting away with theft—ANPR cameras are changing construction site security.

    - ANPR cameras are an effective source of evidence. They provide police forces and local authorities with clear video footage of vehicles involved in crimes, allowing them to secure prosecutions. ANPR cameras can detect if you have valid car insurance, so if your business needs tailored fleet insurance then our experienced brokers can help to find you the best policy.

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