Police unit to be axed

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A CRIME-FIGHTING number plate camera watch service is to be disbanded, senior police chiefs have confirmed.

The Hartlepool Mail reported previously how Cleveland Police’s automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) unit was under threat because of service cuts.

The unit has scored major successes in catching organised criminals, dangerous drivers and drug dealers.

Force chiefs say the unit has to be disbanded to meet 20 per cent budget savings.

But they said they would look at other ways to make the most of the sophisticated technology.

Sean White, Cleveland Police assistant chief constable, said: “We recognise that ANPR technology is vitally important in tackling criminals who use the road and in order to make the roads safe for everyone.

“At a meeting of Cleveland Police Authority, it was agreed that in order to meet the necessary 20 per cent savings reduction plan – consequent to the 2010 comprehensive spending review – (CSR) that Cleveland Police would disband the current ANPR intercept team and look at other ways in which to continue the ANPR function in order to benefit communities.”

Mr White added the roads policing unit will be given increased power to use the ANPR through new equipment provided in vehicles.

And a range of fixed cameras at secret locations across the area will be given an overhaul to provide even better coverage.

A review has been carried out into how the force can make best use of ANPR results and is being considered by chief officers.

Mr White added: “The force is committed to improving technology and will continue to make sure that the ANPR system is fully utilised in the future.”

Cleveland Police have to find the spending cuts over the next four years.

Plans include reducing officer numbers from 1,727 to 1,572 with a further 75 posts going in 2013.

A serving police officer said in an anonymous letter to the Mail that he did not believe the public are getting value for money by the axing of the ANPR service.

Over the last 10 months, the team is said to have seized around £500,000 of drugs and cash, made 200 arrests and seized 300 vehicles, along with gaining a host of intelligence to pass on to colleagues.

Last year the Cleveland ANPR team was hailed as one of the best in the country by the Association of Chief Police Officers.