Home News London Mayor expands Met’s use of number plate cameras to boost crime-fighting capabilities

London Mayor expands Met’s use of number plate cameras to boost crime-fighting capabilities

by Brian Sims
The City of London skyline

The City of London skyline

London Mayor Boris Johnson has more than doubled the number of high-tech Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras used by the Metropolitan Police Service to help identify criminals and bring them to justice. Around 2,300 ANPR cameras are now deployed for policing purposes in London after the Met was granted access to 1,300 Transport for London cameras originally developed, installed and commissioned to enforce the Congestion Charge Zone as well as the Low Emission Zone.

Each camera takes a digital reading of passing traffic, in turn allowing speedy identification and the collecting of real-time data on the precise whereabouts of stolen cars or vehicles believed to have been involved in crime. This vital information enables the police service to detect more criminals and deter and disrupt criminality on London’s streets.

The move to incorporate Transport for London’s ANPR cameras into the Met’s network was one of the Mayor’s 2012 Manifesto pledges and part of Johnson’s drive to bear down on crime in the capital. It follows a positive public consultation – more of which anon – led by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) with guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office. Signs to indicate areas where these ANPR cameras are in use for policing purposes will now be springing up across London.

Explaining this move, Boris Johnson commented: “The collaboration on cameras is helping to ensure our capital remains one of the safest big cities in the world. Having access to TfL’s extensive network of ANPR cameras will enable the Met ‎to track down more criminals and help drive down criminality in London.”

London Mayor Boris Johnson

London Mayor Boris Johnson

Stephen Greenhalgh, London’s Deputy Mayor for Policing, added: “These 1,300 cameras strengthen the digital ‘Ring of Steel’ around our capital city and enhance the Met’s crime prevention capabilities. They will make life harder for criminals and help keep Londoners safe. Access to the data they produce inevitably means that more criminals will be arrested, there will be more seizures of uninsured vehicles and greater numbers of cases solved. This is news that Londoners will welcome.”

Detective Superintendent Neil Winterbourne from the Metropolitan Police Service’s ANPR Bureau explained: “ANPR is an invaluable tool in the fight against crime. I’m very pleased that this step has been taken. Whether they are part of local policing teams or a specialist unit, police officers from across the Met now use ANPR data in over 1,500 investigations every month. The information that ANPR provides helps those officers prevent and detect crime and, ultimately, assists in keeping the people of London safer.”

At a local, regional and national level, ANPR provides lines of enquiry and evidence while also helping to tackle travelling criminals, organised criminal groups and terrorists.

An ANPR network akin to that operated by TfL would cost around £32 million to create.

Consultations on the ANPR move

City Hall: the GLA's headquarters in the heart of the capital

City Hall: the GLA’s headquarters in the heart of the capital

Greater London Authority (GLA) Intelligence conducted a communication and consultation exercise on the Mayor’s plans which ran for a period of eight weeks from 11 February to 8 April 2014. Over this period, views were sought from 562,000 Londoners – a significant percentage of the 1.3 million drivers directly affected by the proposals.

The main consultation web page received over 16,800 hits over this time period while 2,315 responses were received to an online consultation. GLA Intelligence also undertook representative surveying procedures involving over 6,000 Londoners, 1,000 through a telephone survey in June 2013, a 1,000-strong sample online survey in September 2013 and then a further 4,000 by way of online surveys in February and March last year.

Across all forms of polling, eight out of every ten respondents supported the Mayor’s policy to give the Met access to TfL’s ANPR cameras. In fact, around half of all respondents thought the Met already had full access to TfL’s camera data. 83% of survey respondents agreed that the Mayor should ensure organisations such as TfL and the Met share information to make the cameras even more effective.

Enhanced policing plan for Night Tube

News about the ANPR cameras arrives at the same time as it’s reported that crime on London’s transport network is now at a record low rate after falling by 8.3%. In addition, British Transport Police (BPT) officers, the Mayor and London Underground have set out their bold plans for “robust policing” of the forthcoming Night Tube services.

When Night Tube services are introduced in September this year, the BTP’s enhanced policing presence during overnight services will include more than 100 officers on visible patrol across the network. These officers will be patrolling the 144 stations that will be open throughout the night each weekend when Night Tube services begin, increasing the level of presence at each station when compared to existing, normal operating hours.

New BTP plans for Night Tube policing are in place

New BTP plans for Night Tube policing are in place

There will be a permanent presence at key stations in addition to mobile officer teams who will travel the lengths of the Northern, Piccadilly, Central, Victoria and Jubilee lines throughout the night. In addition, plans include:

*a network of rapid response vehicles designed to ensure police officers will be ready to attend any incident very quickly
*police officers backed up by 13,000 CCTV cameras across the network, supported by the London Underground Control Centre operating on a 24/7 basis
*more Police Community Support Officers present on the network to assist passengers and support police officers as and when required

In creating the strategy for Night Tube services, the BTP has spoken to other metro networks across the world that presently operate 24-hour services, with the overwhelming feedback being that crime is no greater through the night than at any other time of the day. This has helped the BTP plan its approach towards ensuring high visibility with officers at the right place at the right time to combat crime.

Reductions in the crime rate

Reductions in the crime rate have been achieved across the capital’s transport network against a backdrop of rapidly rising passenger numbers. London Overground has seen a reduction in crime of 4.9% and, on Tramlink services, there has been a reported 22.7% fall in criminality.

Police officers on motorcycle patrol in central London

Police officers on motorcycle patrol in central London

Despite low levels of crime across London’s transport network as a whole, increases have been recorded in certain crime types on some parts of the network. Reported sexual offences, for example, have risen by 34.7%. This can be attributed to Project Guardian, which has raised public awareness of unwanted sexual behaviour and encourages victims to report historically under-reported crimes.

The BTP’s chief constable Paul Crowther OBE said: “Our role is to ensure that passengers and staff are not only kept safe and secure, but that they also feel safe and secure, whatever time of the day or night they may be travelling on the transport network. With our specialist skills in railway policing and expertise in operating across this unique environment, we’re fully prepared for the challenges and opportunities that the Night Tube service will bring.”

*To view the latest data on crime and criminal justice in London, visit MOPAC’s interactive dashboards at: www.london.gov.uk/priorities/policing-crime/data-information

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