[>Htech] Independent: Britain will be first country to monitor every

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Britain will be first country to monitor every car journey
http://news.independent.co.uk/www.independent.co.uk/template/ver/wireFrame/

By Steve Connor, Science Editor

Published: 22 December 2005

    Britain is to become the first country in the world where the movements of
all
    vehicles on the roads are recorded. A new national surveillance system
will hold
    the records for at least two years.

    Using a network of cameras that can automatically read every passing
number
    plate, the plan is to build a huge database of vehicle movements so that
the
    police and security services can analyse any journey a driver has made
over
    several years.

    The network will incorporate thousands of existing CCTV cameras which are
being
    converted to read number plates automatically night and day to provide
24/7
    coverage of all motorways and main roads, as well as towns, cities, ports
and
    petrol-station forecourts.

    By next March a central database installed alongside the Police National
Computer
    in Hendon, north London, will store the details of 35 million
number-plate
    "reads" per day. These will include time, date and precise location, with
camera
    sites monitored by global positioning satellites.

    Already there are plans to extend the database by increasing the storage
period
    to five years and by linking thousands of additional cameras so that
details of
    up to 100 million number plates can be fed each day into the central
databank.

    Senior police officers have described the surveillance network as possibly
the
    biggest advance in the technology of crime detection and prevention since
the
    introduction of DNA fingerprinting.

    But others concerned about civil liberties will be worried that the
movements of
    millions of law-abiding people will soon be routinely recorded and kept on
a
    central computer database for years.

    The new national data centre of vehicle movements will form the basis of
a
    sophisticated surveillance tool that lies at the heart of an operation
designed
    to drive criminals off the road.

    In the process, the data centre will provide unrivalled opportunities to
gather
    intelligence data on the movements and associations of organised gangs
and
    terrorist suspects whenever they use cars, vans or motorcycles.

    The scheme is being orchestrated by the Association of Chief Police
Officers
    (Acpo) and has the full backing of ministers who have sanctioned the
spending of
    ?24m this year on equipment.

    More than 50 local authorities have signed agreements to allow the police
to
    convert thousands of existing traffic cameras so they can read number
plates
    automatically. The data will then be transmitted to Hendon via a secure
police
    communications network.

    Chief constables are also on the verge of brokering agreements with the
Highways
    Agency, supermarkets and petrol station owners to incorporate their own
CCTV
    cameras into the network. In addition to cross-checking each number plate
against
    stolen and suspect vehicles held on the Police National Computer, the
national
    data centre will also check whether each vehicle is lawfully licensed,
insured
    and has a valid MoT test certificate.

    "Every time you make a car journey already, you'll be on CCTV somewhere.
The
    difference is that, in future, the car's index plates will be read as
well," said
    Frank Whiteley, Chief Constable of Hertfordshire and chairman of the Acpo
    steering committee on automatic number plate recognition (ANPR).

    "What the data centre should be able to tell you is where a vehicle was in
the
    past and where it is now, whether it was or wasn't at a particular
location, and
    the routes taken to and from those crime scenes. Particularly important
are
    associated vehicles," Mr Whiteley said.

    The term "associated vehicles" means analysing convoys of cars, vans or
trucks to
    see who is driving alongside a vehicle that is already known to be of
interest to
    the police. Criminals, for instance, will drive somewhere in a lawful
vehicle,
    steal a car and then drive back in convoy to commit further crimes "You're
not
    necessarily interested in the stolen vehicle. You're interested in what's
moving
    with the stolen vehicle," Mr Whiteley explained.

    According to a strategy document drawn up by Acpo, the national data
centre in
    Hendon will be at the heart of a surveillance operation that should deny
    criminals the use of the roads.

    "The intention is to create a comprehensive ANPR camera and reader
infrastructure
    across the country to stop displacement of crime from area to area and to
allow a
    comprehensive picture of vehicle movements to be captured," the Acpo
strategy
    says.

    "This development forms the basis of a 24/7 vehicle movement database that
will
    revolutionise arrest, intelligence and crime investigation opportunities
on a
    national basis," it says.

    Mr Whiteley said MI5 will also use the database. "Clearly there are values
for
    this in counter-terrorism," he said.

    "The security services will use it for purposes that I frankly don't have
access
    to. It's part of public protection. If the security services did not have
access
    to this, we'd be negligent."

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