The story behind crime-fighting number plate recognition in the UK
How the UK's new National ANPR Service revolutionised law enforcement. A story of collaboration, innovation, and cutting-edge technology that transformed the fight against crime.
Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) is a technology that can read and record the registration numbers of vehicles passing by a camera. It’s used by law enforcement agencies to track and identify vehicles involved in various crimes, such as car theft, cloned vehicles, kidnappings, and other crime.
ANPR is part of the UK's critical national infrastructure, needed for intelligence-led and operational policing. However, until recently, the UK's ANPR system was very fragmented with 11,000 cameras across the country feeding into 44 different systems that were not connected or standardised. This made it difficult to share and analyse data across police force boundaries, and to respond quickly to emerging threats.
That's why the UK’s Home Office wanted to create a National ANPR Service (NAS) – a single, unified system that would provide every police force and law enforcement agency with access to a nationwide ANPR dataset, along with advanced analytics and live alerts. The NAS would allow law enforcement to identify and track mobile criminals much more effectively.
To deliver this project, the Home Office partnered with ASD member BAE Systems, a leading provider of defence, security, and aerospace solutions. BAE Systems worked as a delivery partner for the NAS, collaborating with 36 separate force IT departments and five Management Service vendors. Together, they built a high-spec solution that met the complex and diverse needs of the UK's law enforcement community.
The NAS went live in February 2019, and is now the primary ANPR system for law enforcement in the UK, with all forces connected and using it. The NAS handles over 50 million ANPR reads per day, and complex searches that used to take hours can now be done in minutes.
The NAS is a testament to the value of technology in protecting critical infrastructures and enhancing public safety. It is also a showcase of the expertise and innovation of the security industry, and its commitment to delivering solutions that make a difference to society.