Government and Police Launch New Crime-Fighting Tool

Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General

VICTORIA – British Columbia is the first province in Canada to use a new crime-fighting technology, Automatic Licence Plate Recognition (ALPR), to target both traffic violators and stolen vehicles, Solicitor General John Les announced today. “We are taking back B.C. roads with this phenomenal technology,” said Les. “We’re targeting car thieves and prohibited drivers by using interactive, high-tech solutions, combined with criminal analysis techniques. It’s all part of the future of policing in B.C.”

ALPR is a camera and computer database system. Police are assisted by cameras mounted in their cars that capture images of licence plates on vehicles on public highways. The ALPR system reads the licence plate and instantly compares it against the data base in the onboard computer. The data base includes information associated with stolen vehicles and uninsured, unlicensed and prohibited drivers.

The data collected onboard is transferred daily to a secure server at the RCMP Federal Operations Building. If the license plate does not show a violation, the image will be automatically purged from the computer system after three months. If the licence plate shows a violation, the image is retained by police for two years as required by federal law.

IMPACT falls under federal privacy laws and the federal privacy commissioner has reviewed the technology. The provincial privacy commissioner has also been briefed on the ALPR project. The Integrated Municipal Provincial Auto Crime Team (IMPACT) ran a short-term pilot project where several ALPR-equipped police vehicles tested the equipment in order to gather baseline data. Police are working with the International Centre for Urban Research Studies (ICURS) at Simon Fraser University and the University College of the Fraser Valley who are providing data analysis for the project.

“Early results of the pilot project are amazing,” said Les. “In one hour, a police vehicle captured images of 600 plates and on average got one hit for every 60 plates.”

Les added that nine per cent of those hits were associated with a stolen vehicle, 7 per cent associated to a prohibited driver, 25 per cent of the hits were associated with an unlicensed or uninsured vehicle and 59 per cent of hits were associated with an unlicensed driver. RCMP Assistant Commissioner Gary Bass says the operational stage of the pilot study begins this week. ALPR units are being deployed throughout the Lower Mainland in strategic locations based on crime analysis trends.

The ALPR equipped vehicles are working with police resources from IMPACT, the Integrated Road Safety Units, the Lower Mainland Traffic Division, and other police agencies.

“Stolen vehicles and unsafe drivers identified by ALPR units will be targeted and when appropriate, charges will be recommended,” said Bass.

Air One, B.C.’s first dedicated, fully equipped traffic safety helicopter, which was purchased by government with funding from ICBC, will play a significant role in the apprehension of violators identified by ALPR. Air One can carry out air surveillance and track the vehicle to a safe location where ground units can apprehend.


Media Contact

Cindy Rose
Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General
250 356-6961

Sgt. Gord Elias
Media Relations Officer
604 598-4456

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