Tuesday 19 June 2007 - Estimates Committee B (Cox) - Part 1




2.5 Vehicle Standards and Compliance

Automatic number plate recognition

Mr FINCH - I want to ask about automatic number plate recognition, or the ANPR, process. I am assuming that this process fits in neatly with this new motor registry project?

Mr WELLS - That is principally an issue for police –

Mr COX - There was a trial done a –

Mr WELLS - That illustrates that the police are reliant on the motor registry to make that assessment work.

Mr FINCH - I want to bring up this subject with you. We had a disruption of traffic on the West Tamar Highway just recently, ostensibly to catch unregistered vehicles on the road. Was that operation by police unnecessary; these ANPR cameras would probably give you the same result?

Mr COX - I am aware of the one you are talking about. You are talking about the West Tamar Highway, which was at a quarter to seven until 8.15 in the morning?

Mr FINCH - Yes.

Mr COX - I accept the reason of what you are saying. Where it becomes very difficult to support is: firstly, is there ever a right time? When you consider that 39 people were charged as a result of that, I have to say it was a worthwhile exercise.

Mr FINCH - How many unregistered vehicles were there?

Mr COX - Twenty-six.

Mr FINCH - Could you just explain for me how the cameras work? Are these particular ones, the ANPR cameras, just set up on the side of the highway and they just read the registration plates?

Mr COX - I am just checking for my own benefit here. It is an instant recognition. I think it can do so many hundred in 30 seconds or less. It goes straight onto the computer.  If you were travelling north, once it is picked up, 100 metres up the road you will be stopped. It is instant. It is as close to instant as you can get.

Mr FINCH - Do the police do that?

Mr COX - Yes.

Mr FINCH - And then pull the car up rather than trace the car back to the home address and then issue a fine?

Mr COX - My understanding is that it is an instant process.

Ms NICOLLS - It is an instant process.  The vehicles are checked by ANPR and it takes one-tenth of a second while a vehicle is still travelling towards the camera.  Any vehicles of interest are subject to being stopped, thus allowing others to continue. We use it quite extensively for detection of unregistered/uninsured motor vehicles, and all vehicles that have an expired council or suspended status of MRS are downloaded daily on to our ANPR software for detection on roads. And both police and transport inspectors are able to take some action in that instance.

Mr FINCH - For a police blitz, particularly on unregistered vehicles, it will be unnecessary for them now to hold up all of that traffic? The cameras would catch the culprits rather than having to interfere with the flow of traffic and disrupt so many people?

Ms NICOLLS - The cameras cannot only be used for unregistered/uninsured motor vehicles. Information can be downloaded that details vehicles that have had a defect notice issued. We can also detect unlicensed drivers. An operator of a vehicle whose licence has been cancelled, suspended or expired has the registration number of their vehicle downloaded into ANPR for detection on roads, and so the vehicle can be apprehended and then we can check whether that unlicensed driver is driving.

There is also the ability to detect people with warrants issued in their name. One person detected in West Tamar recently had a substantial number of warrants outstanding, and the police have the capacity to include information on people of interest to them.

Mr FINCH - This is cutting edge technology.


Mr COX - The old process that was used still works for the reasons that Ms Nicolls has mentioned. In that total were three separate blitzes. You referred to West Tamar. Another was on Henry Street between 3 and 5 that afternoon. Another was done on the Tasman Highway at Farraday Street; you would be familiar with that area.

Mr FINCH - Yes.

Mr COX - This is where it is hard to argue against this. In total, there were three disqualified drivers, 49 unregistered vehicles, seven unlicensed, four with warrants out against them, 16 had defect notices, and there were six others. Two had cannabis possession, and in one case the passenger was pretty smart because he was drinking alcohol while they pulled him up. Whilst it annoyed a lot of motorists –

Mr FINCH - It was very disruptive.

Mr COX - It was disruptive. If one of those 49 unregistered or unlicensed drivers had caused the death of a family member, you would reckon it was a worthwhile exercise, and I cannot go anywhere other than that.

Mr FINCH - This new technology, if employed, would save that sort of operation?

Mr COX - I do not know that it would save it, but it would be assistance to it. It is the one that is mainly used on highways for fast-moving vehicles. This is always going to have a place. There will always be a place for a stop, inspect and go.

Mr FINCH - It is just that a quarter to seven to a quarter past seven or –

Mr COX - Can I ask you: when is the right time?

CHAIR - Minister, before I adjourn, we do have the right under our standing orders to request an extension, by 3 o'clock, of the President for an evening sitting, 7 o'clock on. What this committee prefers to do, considering the number of staff, is to get a commitment of continuing till 5 and, if needed - and we do not know whether it is needed - out to a maximum of 6.30 rather than everyone leaving at 5 and coming back at 7. Are you happy with that?


The committee suspended from 12.37 p.m. to 2.00


Tuesday 19 June 2007 - Estimates Committee B (Cox) - Part 2

CHAIR - We will continue with Output Groups 2.4 and 2.5.

Mr FINCH - May I just clarify this before I go onto the next question? Are these automatic number plate recognition cameras in use?


Mr FINCH - Only by your department or are they being used by the police?

Ms NICOLLS - They are being used by the transport inspectors separately, but they are also being used by the transport inspectors with joint operations with police.

Mr FINCH - For how long have they been in place and being used?

Ms NICOLLS - Since 2001.

Mr COX - You may remember the first one that was used was rather an interesting one. It did find a vehicle belonging to a member in another place that was parked in the car park which I think made the front page on one of our papers?