West Yorkshire Police says it has taken action because of a rise in the number of cases “where number plates are either stolen or placed on to other vehicles or criminals place valid plates on stolen vehicles which are then used in crime”.
The move was revealed in a report setting out the force’s approach to roads policing, which sees its officers take a responsibility for a road network covering an area of more than 2,000 kilometres and 213 miles of motorway.
In a passage on its use of automatic number plate recognition cameras, which are being used more often by the force as a way to uncover the activities of criminal gangs, ‘cloning’ of licence plate is described as being on the rise.
The report said: “To address this there is a technique developed to automatically detect this type of offending which has resulted in over 100 arrests in 2017 and stolen vehicles recovered, burglaries detected or serious acquisitive crime solved.”
The force is working with the Home Office to further explore cloned plate counter-measures and speaking with the Department of Transport about how they can make it more difficult to replicate number plates.
Extra staff have been taken on by the force since April to analyse and research the results from its ANPR cameras, which use optical character recognition on images to read vehicle registration plates.
New static cameras are being bought, including some which will replace the existing models that can communicate through a faster 4G broadband network, rather than having to be ‘hard wired’ into BT telephone lines.
The report says: “Many criminals use the road network in the planning and commission of their crimes. Proactive road policing can deny criminals the unchallenged use of the roads, and afford a visible presence in reducing the fear of crime and reassuring the law abiding public.
“The use of the strategic road network is integral to the commission of most serious organised crime. There are demonstrable links between the commission of low level traffic offences and other types of criminal activity.
“In short it is worthwhile targeting certain traffic offenders as a method of engaging all levels of criminality.”
In another section of the report, it is revealed that speed cameras resulted in 142,535 tickets being issued around West Yorkshire in the year to June, the vast majority for speeding offences.
This compared to 25,529 issued by West Yorkshire Police officers for motoring offences, which include speeding but also vehicle defects, seat belt offences and using a mobile phone while driving.