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Report 12 of the 8 June 2006 meeting of the Planning, Performance & Review Committee and provides an update on ANPR activity carried out by the Traffic Operational Command Unit (OCU) for the performance year 2005/6.

Warning: This is archived material and may be out of date. The Metropolitan Police Authority has been replaced by the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPC).

See the MOPC website for further information.

Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) activity – update report

Report: 12
Date: 8 June 2006
By: Commissioner


This report updates the authority on Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) ANPR activity carried out by the Traffic Operational Command Unit (OCU) for the performance year 2005/6 (as requested at the full authority meeting 6 December 2005).

A. Recommendation

That Members note the report.

B. Supporting information

1. Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) reads vehicle registration marks (VRMs) and compares them against a series of databases, for example Police National Computer, Driver Vehicle Licence Authority (DVLA) and local hot-lists. If a match occurs, appropriate police action by way of interception, or further intelligence gathering can be taken.

2. Assistant Commissioner Steve House has taken the strategic lead for ANPR throughout the MPS, to provide a framework to enable corporate policies and strategic direction across all MPS business groups. The Metropolitan Police Service uses ANPR in support of its aims to prevent and detect terrorism, serious crime, volume crime, and illegal use of London’s roads. As members will be aware Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur has taken the lead from 30 May.

3. The Traffic OCU provides the primary interception capability on behalf of the MPS for serious and volume crime, and illegal use of the roads. The OCU continues to operate ANPR equipped patrol vehicles 24 hours a day and bespoke ANPR intercept teams. The latter work with officers from boroughs or other parts of Central Operations (Firearms and/or the Territorial Support Group) on operations every day of the week.

4. On 17 October 2005, the ANPR intercept teams developed into four regionally based teams within Traffic OCU, whereas previously secondees had staffed them. Their primary role is to deny criminals use of the roads. They are deployed through the MPS ‘Together’ Tasking process chaired by the Director of Tasking to address London wide and local crime problems. BOCUs bid through TPHQ, which prioritises need against crime trends leaving the final decision to the Director who assigns MPS resources. The OCU also supports the Mayor’s Road Safety Plan by tackling persistent offenders/evaders and unregistered vehicles.

5. MPS databases developed to support these operations include vehicles involved in gun crime, other serious crime, disqualified and uninsured drivers, camera evaders, cloned vehicles, no excise licence, no insurance, vehicles of interest from surrounding forces and people wanted on warrant.

6. Using new legislation to seize a motor vehicle being driven without a driving licence or insurance, the Traffic ANPR intercept teams seized 1200 vehicles of 1377 in total by the Traffic OCU, of which 908 were restored, 300 scrapped and 40 sent for auction (between 6 July 2005 and 31 March 2006).

7. The performance results for ANPR intercept teams maintained an increase by 25% from eight arrests per 100 vehicles stopped in 2004/05 to ten in 2005/06. Since the ANPR teams were wholly absorbed into the Traffic OCU in October 2005, the arrest rate for an ANPR team subsequently increased by 18%, from 500 arrests per team year to 610 arrests per team. The detailed breakdown of traffic activity is:

Traffic ANPR activity 2005/6 (includes Intercept teams and Traffic patrol)
3105 arrests, including:

  • 184 for robbery
  • 256 for auto crime
  • 242 for drug related offences
  • 248 wanted on warrant
  • 921 for other crime
  • 413 for driving offences (disqualified driving, drink/drive etc)
  • 4928 Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) Endorsable
  • 2458 FPN Non Endorsable
  • 3576 Summons
  • 1619 CLE2/8 (DVLA not notified of current keeper details)

C. Race and equality impact

1. Before providing the detail of the impact assessment it is useful to explain the context of how ANPR operations are run for the benefit of readers who have not had the opportunity to visit a deployment.

2. ANPR operations are comprised of a stop site managed by a dedicated CO15 team, (van operator, stopping officer, site marshal (sergeant), a pursuit car and officer with ‘stinger’ or ‘cats claw’ for fail to stop vehicles) and borough or TSG officers to deal with the occupants of the vehicles once stopped. After briefing, the officers deploy to a stop site and the ANPR van cameras ‘read’ the number plates of passing vehicles and when a match with a database is registered the operator is alerted. S/he in turn then alerts officers at the stop site by radio, passing on the registration number of the vehicle concerned. Where possible all vehicles matched to a database would be stopped, however this is limited by the number of vehicles that can be dealt with at any one time, normally a maximum of six reducing as officers leave the site with arrests. As officers become free, the next vehicle is stopped, similar to a ‘cab rank’ principle. The exception is when all stop site officers are engaged and an activation is registered for a serious offence (e.g. a lost/stolen vehicle) then the pursuit car is deployed to make the stop. Certain operations only respond to a limited number of database ‘reads’, for example firearms operations generally ignore all activations other than firearms, weapons or stolen vehicles. The vast majority of ANPR operations are overt and open to community or media commentary.

3. Intercept teams complete a return for submission to the Home Office. Within the return, details of self-defined ethnicity are included for arrests only (this data is not available for other Traffic OCU ANPR equipped vehicles).

4. The Intercept teams generated 2,491 arrests in 2005/6 and for ease of reference and consistency within the report the self-defined ethnicity data has been collated within 5 main groups (published in full at Appendix 1), as follows:

SDE grouping Traffic OCU ANPR Intercept Arrests 2005/6 % of total
White 827 33
Mixed 87 3.5
Asian / British Asian 229 9
Black / British Black 1018 41
Chinese / other 87 3.5
Not recorded / unknown 243 10

5. A study was undertaken to assess the proportionality of enforcement action undertaken during Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) operations.

6. Sixteen police operations conducted in eight boroughs in 2005/6 were reviewed for the purpose of this study (two per borough) and the results are shown in table and chart format in Appendix 2.

7. The raw results show that the ethnicity of the group stopped most overall was white (47%). When split into inner and outer boroughs they reveal that in inner London boroughs the majority of those stopped were Black or Black British (48%) and Asian or Asian British (16%), whilst in outer boroughs (with the exception of Havering) they were in the minority (24% and 9% respectively) and the majority of those stopped were white (63%).

8. The pattern is repeated when enforcement is studied, with the majority of those subject to enforcement white (44%), closely followed by black or black British (37%) and then Asian or Asian British (14%). When split into inner and outer the pattern outlined in the paragraph above is repeated with higher numbers of enforcement for black and minority ethnicity groups in inner London and a higher volume for the white group in outer London.

9. When a comparison is made of the percentage of each self-defined ethnicity group that is subject to enforcement once stopped it can be seen that the returns almost mirror each other. For example 47% of those stopped are white and 44% of that group is subject to enforcement (overall). The picture is similar for Black or Black British persons stopped (36% and 37%) and so on through each group. When split into ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ a similar pattern is repeated.

10. When all arrests made by Traffic OCU in 2005/6 are considered a different picture emerges (presented below, published in full at Appendix 3), with the percentage of white persons arrested rising to 47% (compared to 33% from ANPR Intercept) and the number of Black or Black British arrestees falling to 28% (from 41%).

SDE grouping Traffic OCUAll arrests 2005/6 % of total
White 1893 47
Mixed 183 4.5
Asian / British Asian 461 11.5
Black / British Black 1114 28
Chinese / other 270 7
Not recorded / unknown 79 2

12. A factor to be considered is where ANPR Intercept teams are posted for operations. The majority are determined through the CO Together Tasking process, with a list of successful bids from BOCUs passed to the Traffic OCU intelligence unit to confirm dates and times for deployment. Appendix 4 shows the BOCUs that ANPR Intercept operations were located on between 1 January 2006 to 31 March 2006. This reveals that the majority of deployments were to inner London or high volume crime BOCUs.

13. Whilst no profile is in existence within the OCU of a ‘typical’ offender an examination of the background of 100 drivers drawn at random (by VRES) from the first 1,000 vehicles seized under the provisions of the driving whilst uninsured or unlicensed (report reproduced at Appendix 5) found that:

  • 39% were white, 42% Black or Black British and 13% Asian or British Asian,
  • 57% had a one or more criminal convictions,
  • 84% were male,
  • 79% were 40 years of age or younger.

14. The MPS is conscious that ANPR, although undoubtedly a very useful tactic in making London safer, could be construed as delivering a disproportionate impact to specific communities when deployed on certain inner London boroughs. This is most clearly evidenced by the statistics showing the differences between the self defined ethnicity, number and percentages of people stopped against those eventually arrested, reported etc. For no doubt a series of social, demographic and other complex reasons, black/black British are significantly, and worryingly, over represented.

15. From the commentary contained within this report, it is hopefully clear that the MPS is aware of the concerns around ANPR and disproportionality. We are keen to continue to work with communities and other stakeholders to better understand why it occurs and what actions can be take to reduce it. Whilst the activation of the ANPR is undoubtedly no or low discretion, the resulting action and decision to stop arguably does involve an element of discretion and this will form the basis for a further piece of work about to be commissioned that will involve MPS corporate IAGs, MPA members and other persons and bodies able to contribute to the debate.

16. Whilst ANPR is an excellent tactic and undoubtedly contributes significantly to making London safer, it is important that all communities see it as a ‘fair’ tactic and not one that disproportionately disadvantages ‘their’ community. The MPS understand the importance of retaining community trust and confidence in ANPR and will continue to work with partners to achieve it.

D. Financial implications

The operational cost of the ANPR teams is fully funded by the Traffic OCU budget.

E. Background papers


F. Contact details

Report author: Ian Chappell, Superintendent, MPS

For more information contact:

MPA general: 020 7202 0202
Media enquiries: 020 7202 0217/18

Appendix 1

MPS ANPR intercept teams arrests and self defined ethnicity from 1 April 2005 to 31 March 2006

Self defined ethnicity arrests % of total
A1 – Indian 71 2.9%
A2 – Pakistani 51 2.0%
A3 – Bangladeshi 16 0.6%
A9 – any other Asian background 91 3.7%
B1 - Caribbean 646 25.9%
B2 – African 331 13.3%
B9 – any other black background 41 1.6%
M1 – white & black Caribbean 36 1.4%
M2 – white & black African 13 0.5%
M3 – white & Asian 1 0
M9 – any other mixed background 37 1.5%
N4 – declines ethnicity 0 0
O1 - Chinese 39 1.6%
O9 –any other ethnic group 48 1.9%
W1 - British 589 23.6%
W2 – Irish 47 1.9%
W9 – any other white background 191 7.7%
Not recorded/Unknown 243 9.8%
Total 2491  

Appendix 3

Total number of arrests made by Traffic Officers between 1 April 2005 and 31 March 2006, broken down by Self-defined ethnicity

Only arrests where TD*, Traffic OCU or Traf* has been entered as the Arresting Officer Div Code or station code on the custody computer, have been included in these figures

Self-defined ethnicity Self-defined ethnicity description  
W1 British 1348
W2 Irish 91
W9 Any other white background 454
M1 White & Black Caribbean 64
M2 White & Black African 44
M3 White & Asian 23
M9 Any other mixed background 52
A1 Indian 147
A2 Pakistani 100
A3 Bangladeshi 76
A9 Any other Asian background 138
B1 Caribbean 381
B2 African 585
B9 Any other Black background 148
O1 Chinese 43
O9 Any other Ethnic Group 227
N1 Where the officer's presence is urgently required elsewhere 1
N2 Situation involving public disorder 1
N3 When the person does not appear to understand what is required 57
N4 Where the person declines to define their ethnicity 13
UN Unknown 7
Grand Total   4000

Appendix 4

ANPR Intercept team deployments - 1 January 2006 to 31 March 2006

BOCU No of deployments
BS 5
CX 3
EK 19
FH 2
GD 6
GN 1
HT 4
JC 16
KD 5
KF 18
KG 1
LX 9
MD 24
NI 2
PL 11
PY 3
QA 4
QK 6
RG 3
SX 1
TX 15
VK 1
XB 4
XH 1
YE 13
YR 9
ZD 10
ZT 2
TFL (limited database) 49

Appendix 6

2001 census ethnic breakdown

Borough Total population Asian or Asian British Black or Black British Chinese or other Ethnic group Mixed White British
    Total % Total % Total % Total % Total %
Bromley 295520 7555 2.56% 8607 2.91% 3182 1.08% 5510 1.86% 270666 91.59%
Hackney 202820 17415 8.59% 50009 24.66% 6430 3.17% 8497 4.19% 120469 59.40%
Havering 224262 4087 1.82% 3144 1.40% 1306 0.58% 2304 1.03% 213421 95.17%
Kingston upon Thames 147266 11467 7.79% 2312 1.57% 5750 3.90% 3344 2.27% 124393 84.47%
Lambeth 266187 12177 4.57% 68555 25.75% 6543 2.46% 12854 4.83% 166058 62.38%
Newham 243896 79304 32.52% 52652 21.59% 7561 3.10% 8249 3.38% 96130 39.41%
Southwark 244869 9959 4.07% 63418 25.90% 8039 3.28% 9137 3.73% 154316 63.02%
Sutton 179781 8506 4.73% 4601 2.56% 2594 1.44% 3729 2.07% 160351 89.19%


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