Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR)

Use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition by West Yorkshire Police


Why we use ANPR

Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology is used within West Yorkshire Police  to help detect, deter and disrupt criminality at a local, force, regional and national level, including tackling traveling criminals, 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.


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.  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 uncovering cases of major crime.  It also allows officers’ attention to be drawn to offending vehicles whilst allowing law abiding drivers to go about their business unhindered.


Access to Stored Data

ANPR data from West Yorkshire Police is submitted to the National ANPR Data Centre (NADC) where it 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.  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.  After 90 days, access may only be for serious, major or counter terrorism investigations and after 12 months only for major investigations and counter terrorism purposes.

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 West Yorkshire Police 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 West Yorkshire Police 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.  We 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.

West Yorkshire Police is 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 West Yorkshire Police.


Surveillance Camera Commissioner - Self Assessment for ANPR

Self Assessment Tool for Automatic Number Plate Recognition (PDF)
This pdf is a form completed by West Yorkshire Police that asks "How well does your organisation comply with the 12 guiding principles of the surveillance camera code of practice?"


Examples of the use of ANPR

High Risk Missing Persons at risk of Child Sexual Exploitation

A report was received of a vulnerable female getting into a ‘66’ plate Mercedes in the Bradford area.  ANPR checks were made and a silver Mercedes A Class hire vehicle was identified that matched the detail given. It was identified that the vehicle had been to Humberside area and then travelled back to the Bradford area.  The vehicle was broadcast for observations and soon stopped by officers.  Located in the vehicle were two males and two vulnerable missing females who were both subject to Child Sexual Exploitation offences.  Two arrests were made and the females made safe.

Vehicle make off from collision

An elderly pedestrian was struck by a vehicle which failed to stop at the scene. The pedestrian suffered serious injuries as a result. The ANPR Unit liaised with the Senior Investigating Officer and officers at the scene regarding the offending vehicle. CCTV footage of the subject vehicle was retrieved and it was possible to identify the make model and colour only. ANPR research then identified the registration of a potential vehicle. Continued enquiries into this vehicle through ANPR meant that the investigation team were able to locate the subject vehicle which was subsequently recovered for full examination and within two hours a suspect was in custody.

Vehicle linked to Burglary offence

A vehicle that had been stolen as part of a Burglary offence passed an ANPR camera after it had been stolen. ANPR research into this camera activation identified that there was further vehicle travelling in close proximity to the stolen vehicle. This detail was communicated to district intelligence units. The vehicle was identified as a key vehicle of interest and the vehicle was stopped as a result of further enquiries. The driver gave a false story that was disproved using ANPR and was arrested for the initial offence.