Car Cheats: your number's up

UNLICENSED, unregistered and uninsured drivers beware - if Ipswich's traffic police get their way, you're about to become a whole lot easier to catch.

A vehicle using automated number plate recognition (ANPR) technology has been trialled in Ipswich, proving extremely efficient in tracking down motorists who should not have been on the road.

Fitted to a high-visibility highway patrol car, the technology uses wide-angle cameras that take pictures of vehicles on the road, in car parks or wherever police decide to take it.

The image is sent to a computer system in the car, where an alarm is triggered if the registered owner or the vehicle are listed as being involved in the commission of an offence.

Officers from the Ipswich Traffic Branch found out just how effective the technology was when they tested it at the beginning of April.

Over 26 working hours they issued traffic infringement tickets and notices to appear in court for just under 50 offences, including 28 unregistered vehicles, two disqualified drivers and five unlicensed drivers.

During the course of their travels they even caught nine drivers that had failed to change their registration sticker over within the 14 days required.

Acting Senior Sergeant Dave Silcock said the technology was most useful in identifying unlicensed drivers and unregistered and uninsured vehicles.

"The system basically identifies the registered owner of the vehicle and can immediately identify any offences linked to that person or the car they are driving," he said.

"It's just like the current system, where we would have to enter the registration into the system, except that now the computer does it all for you."

As a result, police caught a number of offenders during the trial period that they might not have otherwise thought to conduct checks on.

Gone are the days when police will only be conducting checks on drivers in the old, run-down vehicles.

ANPR doesn't discriminate.

"There was an instance where, within 200m of pulling out of the driveway at the police station, we caught three unregistered vehicles," Snr Sgt Silcock said.

"There was also a situation where police detected a brand new Range Rover as being unregistered.

"After being pulled over, the driver's excuse was that they could not afford to pay the registration costs."

Police remain hopeful that the technology will soon become a permanent fixture.

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