Caught on cop cam - out on patrol with Falmouth Police
Falmouth and Penryn police have a new tool at their disposal in the ongoing battle against vehicle crime.
The ANPR car, which stands for Automatic Number Plate Recognition, helps police officers to spot uninsured drivers, untaxed vehicles and any car that has been linked to a crime.
In its first four days of use alone, the car caught seven drivers for either no insurance, theft of scrap metal or drug possession.
To see how it all works, we sent Packet reporter Greg Fountain out with PC Chris Vincent as he patrolled the streets.
Something about the prospect of getting in a police car makes me nervous.
Thankfully, when I arrived at Falmouth Police Station just after 10am last Wednesday to take a look at their latest bit of kit, PC Vincent was on hand to assure me that I could ride up front.
The back seat is where you sit when you've done something wrong, or are suspected of wrongdoing, and within the hour I would see it occupied.
But first I was introduced to the ANPR car - “a powerful bit of kit” that's “worth its weight in gold,” according to Sergeant Martin Roberts from Falmouth CID.
Capable of reading more than 3,000 number plates an hour at speeds in excess of 100mph, the ANPR car comes with a forward and rear facing camera equipped with a low light, infrared mode. It isn't cheap though - The rear camera alone costs £7,000 and the entire system comes in at just under £20,000, on top of the price of a patrol car.
When it recognises a plate that has been flagged up on any of the various police, DVLA or insurance databases it emits a variety of pings and alarms depending on the priority and importance of the match.
(ABOVE) The ANPR car parked up on the Penryn Bypass
For the first forty-five minutes I was in the car, no high priority matches were found either in Penryn or parked up by the bypass.
PC Vincent said: “We have gone an hour without anything coming up before and then yesterday I had two within a few seconds of each other.”
(BELOW) The readout from the cameras is displayed on the car's dashboard
But then finally, on Falmouth's Western Terrace, the alarm bells went off.
A white Citroen van on an 05 plate had been marked as not having any insurance - the most common offence detected by the ANPR car, with 12 in the last ten days.
We tailed the van down Trescobeas Road before getting it to pull over just off Bickland Hill.
With the driver in the back seat, PC Vincent contacted the insurance company to confirm the van's details and - after a long wait on hold - it turned out a clerical error had led to one digit of the number plate being wrong on the policy document.
The driver was sent on his way under instruction to get his policy changed as soon as possible.
PC Vincent said: “We are hoping [the ANPR car] will become more of a deterrent than just a prosecution thing.
“It's not always about us prosecuting people; it's about educating drivers as well.”
(ABOVE) PC Vincent stops a car that is known to the police
The “ultimate” aspiration would be to link the ANPR system into the town's CCTV, PC Vincent said.
“That would allow us to monitor the traffic and it does not have to be manned. It's a computer system that links in directly.
“Primarily the focus is to not only make the roads safer for everyone, but to reduce other types of crime.”