What is ANPR and how does it work?

ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) systems use a camera to read vehicle registration plates as they drive by to determine location data. This data is recorded and shared with a centralised data system that details the vehicle and its owner.

The gathered information is then cross-referenced and used for various traffic and law enforcement purposes by private companies, the Department of Transport, and local authorities. Its primary use is for car park management and managing and monitoring traffic flow.

How does ANPR work?

ANPR automatically reads vehicle registration marks (VRMs) using a camera that takes an image of the vehicle number plate. This image is passed to a reader, which locates the VRM. It reads the characters given so that the letters and numbers can be identified using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software. An image of the view of the number plate is then saved as text data and checked against a centralised database.

OCR can be used in traffic enforcement cameras, CCTV and dedicated ANPR cameras.

What does an ANPR camera check?

An ANPR camera detects and reads a vehicle’s registration number, cross-checking it against various databases that contain vehicle records. For example, a police ANPR will check the detected registration plate against their database records of ‘vehicles of interest’. If the vehicle is red-flagged, officers can intercept it, check it for evidence, and arrest if necessary.

How is ANPR used?

Two different groups generally use ANPR:

1. Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs), including the police

2. Private companies, the Department for Transport (DfT) and local authorities

The most common uses of ANPR are:

  • Average speed checks
  • Detecting uninsured and untaxed vehicles
  • Check vehicles for valid MOT’s
  • Locating stolen vehicles
  • Ticketing minor traffic offences
  • Monitor and regulate traffic flow on motorways and busy urban areas
  • Bus lane enforcement
  • Car park management
  • Security
  • Weighbridges
  • Tolling
  • Petrol station sentinels

How long are ANPR databases stored?

The National ANPR Service (NAS) stores ANPR databases. All collected data is secured under the Data Protection Act. According to the police, ANPR databases from each police force in the country are stored for one year and are only accessible to authorised officers and staff with ANPR access for up to 90 days. After that time, only a senior officer is authorised to access the data. The actual record that the vehicle passed a camera is held for two years, and then it is destroyed.

ANPR law enforcement

Law enforcement uses ANPR cameras in several ways, from speed checks to locating stolen vehicles to solving major and organised crime cases.

The police use ANPR to ‘detect, deter and disrupt criminality’. With more than 60 million records added to the UK ANPR database each day, police can access and use this data to detect crime, prevent a criminal act, or even stop a criminal act while in progress.

The aim of ANPR for the police is to:

  • Reduce crime and disorder
  • Increase detection rates and the likelihood of positive criminal justice outcomes
  • Deter terrorism
  • Promote public reassurance
  • Enhance intelligence
  • Improve road safety

It’s interesting to note even if a vehicle hasn’t been involved in an incident, its image and information are held for up to two years, just in case.

ANPR traffic monitoring

ANPR cameras are now a common sight on our roads, used in many ways to regulate and monitor traffic.

On motorways, ANPR cameras check the average speed of vehicles by taking timed images between two locations and from this, they can determine the speed of the car.

Highways England operates around 1,100 cameras on approximately 500 sites on motorways and trunk roads across the UK.

ANPR parking management

Over the last few years, ANPR has progressed so much that it provides a more streamlined car park management system. Used by both privately run car parks and those managed by local authorities, an ANPR car park solution makes it easier for drivers and car park owners. Car parks now have easier payment processes, ticketless systems, and even software that shows you where spaces are free and security protection 24/7.

What are the benefits of using ANPR?

Enhanced safety and security
Many organisations and businesses now use ANPR as part of their security systems. ANPR provides added security for both public and private use and acts as a deterrent in stopping criminal behaviour, giving peace of mind to all. ANPR systems have a higher level of accuracy due to their advanced technology compared to manual checks.

Easier management of resources
ANPR can help save time and aid management processes across various sectors and businesses. Providing a more dependable service, they can help you manage your resources more effectively and provide support when using personal and ANPR systems in conjunction with one another.

Automated 24/7 systems
One of the main benefits of ANPR is that it’s all automated, so little to no human intervention is required. Due to its highly accurate monitoring, recording and 24/7 operation, ANPR is more efficient and cost-effective.

Improved efficiency and reliability
Since it’s fully automated, ANPR requires no employees to operate the system, so companies will see a significant increase in reliability and successful application with no human error.

Accurate real-time data
Highly versatile and extremely beneficial to a broad sector of industries is providing real-time imaging. With ANPR, number plates can be recognised instantaneously and checked against the ANPR database, meaning immediate action can be taken. Organisations will also be able to access historical data and live data and reporting should evidence need to be provided.


If you are looking for ANPR and Vehicle Management services, we work with a selection of trusted partners within this space, so please ask us for more details by completing this form and adding ‘ANPR’ at the start of the message.

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