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New State Surveillance System 2006-08-27

Posted by clype in Intolerance, Scotland.
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A networkof secret roadside cameras used to track ‘terror suspects’, ‘drug traffickers’ and ‘child abductors’ has been ‘rolled out’ across Scotland, police have revealed.

Senior officers have told ‘The Scotsman Newspaper’ that the installation of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras was completed this month (2006-08), allowing detectives to monitor the movements of suspects from a 4 000-name ‘watchlist’ as they travel on major routes across the country.

The surveillance equipment, which looks like ordinary speed cameras, was piloted in ‘Strathclyde’ and ‘Fife’ and police say it has been hugely successful in catching and monitoring thousands of suspects and criminals, including sex offenders, bogus callers and disqualified drivers.

  • But some human rights campaigners have branded the system a ‘Big Brother’-style infringement on personal liberties.

Police will not disclose where the cameras are located, or how many there are, but say they also have a number of ‘mobile units’ allowing them to act on ‘specific intelligence’ about a suspect’s movements, or target particular ‘crime hotspots’.

Assistant Chief Constable of Fife Constabulary Mr.Allan Burnett, who has overseen the ‘roll-out’ of Automatic Number Plate Recognition for ‘The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland’, revealed that the next phase in the programme, to expand the system to local authority Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras, was already well under way.

[Picture of Asst Chief Constable Allan Burnett]
‘We have the software that allows us to use CCTV for number plate recognition,’ he said.

‘The Scottish Executive’ has spent 1.5 million GBP on ANPR machines which can check up to 3 000 licence plates/hour on vehicles travelling at speeds of up to 100 miles/hour.

Police forces have created a central database of 4 000 vehicles owned by people they want to monitor. This has been connected to the Scottish Intelligence Database (the SID) to allow every officer to be able to request that a vehicle of interest should be checked. The Assistant Chief Constable of Fife Constabulary said:

‘We’ve completed the installation of fixed-site cameras this month, which has created an extremely flexible network.’

He revealed that the cameras had been used to track people involved in ‘child abduction’ and ‘drug trafficking’ and had been used in ‘anti-terrorism operations’. In 2004, in ‘Fife’, 1 247 crimes were detected using the technology.

It can cover the most serious crimes to someone who hasn’t got an insurance document.

‘But each force is prioritising the crimes they are interested in; if we put all the numbers on the system that we are interested in, it would be overwhelmed.’

The Assistant Chief Constable of Fife Constabulary said details were also kept on the system for a limited period of time, ensuring the number of targets did not escalate out of control.

‘We understand some people are worried about this being “Big Brother”, but the general public shouldn’t worry; there are “checks and balances” regulating the “intelligence on the system”.’

The Assistant Chief Constable of Fife Constabulary said the technology also allowed them to identify the faces of drivers. He said legislation would have to be introduced to allow such intimate monitoring and acknowledged ‘a debate will have to be had’ as to whether such tactics would be acceptable.

[Picture of Sir Andrew Laggatt]In 2006-07, the UK’s Chief Surveillance Commissioner Sir Andrew Leggatt warned the use of ANPR could be open to legal challenge.

He urged ministers to bring forward legislation to ensure the equipment is in line with privacy laws and police are not prevented from using the cameras to give evidence in court.

‘There are two sides to the argument, but if I was making the case for extending ANPR I would say it could be a very powerful tool in “the fight against crime and terrorism”,’ said The Assistant Chief Constable of Fife Constabulary.

Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras are also being used in Edinburgh to monitor traffic flows and could be used for congestion charging schemes.

Lawyers last night said the correct balance had to be struck between helping the police monitor criminals and preserving the rights of individuals.

‘Whilst recognising this may be helpful to the police, there needs to be public disclosure of the proposed uses of such surveillance techniques and how they are being regulated,’ said the chairman of ‘The Criminal Bar Association’, Ms.Maggie Scott. [http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/]

But Ms.Margaret Mitchell, the Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party‘s justice spokesman, welcomed the new tracking system.

[Picture of Margaret Mitchell]
‘We need to deploy whatever resources are available to “tackle terrorism”, “paedophile rings” and other serious crimes,’ she said.

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