Technology in the policing field has revolutionized the way police officers go about their job on a daily bases. It is constantly changing for both the good and the bad, and helps to create a safer and better environment for citizens to live in. Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) is just one of the many technologies that have been discovered, and put into place throughout the policing community. Automatic Number Plate Recognition is means of surveillance that uses optical character recognition on various images and makes reading license plate numbers possible. They do this through the use of existing closed-circuit television, road enforcement cameras, or ones specifically designed for the task. This technology has been recently put in place through the use of toll collections. When a car drives through the Speed-Pass lane at the tolls, the camera takes a picture of the license plate, and links the bill directly to that drivers account to make the appropriate payment. Although this is a great use of the technology, the policing field has utilized this technology to look for non-law abiding citizens, and do their best to keep them off the streets. Not everyone feels great about Automatic Number Plate Recognition, and many are concerned about big brother watching them, and fear of government tracking daily movements, as well as error in the technology including misidentification.
Automatic Number Plate Recognition has been around much longer than most can imagine. In 1976 the technology was invented at the Police Scientific Development Branch in the United Kingdom, where it was altered, changed, and put into the industry in 1979. The technology was controversial at the time of its release overseas, however it proved to be an accurate and impressive technology, making its first arrest on an individual when it detected a stolen car in 1981.
Understanding how a technology can often be a very difficult thing, however very interesting in learning what makes it work. Automatic Number Plate Recognition utilizes optical character recognition of images that have been taken by a camera. The technology can tweaked, and altered to specific states to recognize font, character length, color, and even down to the spacing in between the characters. Most systems include the use of infrared cameras which allows the cameras to work at anytime during the day and also result in clearer images of license plates. The most recent advance in the realm of Automatic Number Plate Recognition is bringing the technology to mobile units to allow for police officers to scan license plates in less than a second. With a greater understanding of the technology from experience over the years, every aspect of the system has been scaled down including cameras, computers, wiring, and just about every other component that the technology involves. The advances in the technology do not only directly correlate to size; they also have the benefit of increased durability and performance, and can read license plates while driving at speeds of over a hundred miles per hour.
The difficult part of bringing Automatic Number Plate Recognition to mobile units was its efficiency. The technology needed to run off the battery of a cop as well as be able to read license plates of vehicles in oncoming traffic which would result in speeds exceeding a hundred miles per hour. Through faster processors, and greater battery capabilities, this product has been able to be used efficiently and effectively in mobile policing units.
Many departments across the country feared its acceptance amongst new officers, primarily seasoned veterans that had been working in the field for quite some time. According to Lt. Chris Cahal of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, he found that, “Acceptance has been high and we don’t have to send them (officers) to extensive classes to train them.” He goes on further to say that the systems were, “very...
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