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How one small town is fighting back with CCTV

News from the United States; in the small Florida town of Manalapan, (population 321) a recent crimewave has resulted in the latest generation of CCTV being approved for use, by the town council.

Following a recent spate of burglaries, a decision was made to install an ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) based Closed Circuit Television System, capable of recording all vehicles passing through the main residential area.

Once captured, the vehicle licence plates will be automatically compared against a database of known stolen or suspect vehicles.

Along with the vehicle plates, an image of the driver will also be digitally recorded, and the data stored for a period of three months.

Manalapans Police Chief, Clay Walker has indicated that if proven successful, the scheme may be extended to cover other major roads in the area.

Whilst courts in America have previously ruled that in a public area, their is no public expectation of privacy, Chief Walker is mindful of the implications for this technology in relation to civil liberties.

Detailed from an original story by NOAH BIERMAN,
published in The Miami Herald - 24th April 2004 (www.herald.com)

Doktor Jon comments:-
"Whilst ANPR systems are of course widely used in the United Kingdom, and elsewhere,
they are not to be regarded as foolproof. Apart from the technical problems which can
and do result in a small percentage of failed scans, their is a known 'loophole' which
unfortunately is all too familier, to those operating on the wrong side of the law.
As a crime fighting tool, ANPR is undoubtedly useful in its ability to deal with a high volume
of vehicles in real time, but its use should perhaps be considered in a wider context.
Without any background knowledge of this town or its problems, my instinctive reaction
might have been that the cost of adopting the ANPR part of the system, particulalrly for
a small town, may perhaps have been more appropriately used on providing
additional CCTV cameras, in other strategic locations.
As deterrence is a major objective for the system, perhaps a community based
CCTV "Safety Net" approach, may have been worth considering.
The US views on privacy issues in public places, is very interesting when compared to
the UK approach, particularly in the context of our laughable Data Protection Act.
Doktor Jon wishes the good folk of Manalapan well, in their crime fighting endeavours".

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