The Northern Territory Police has begun to fit out its vehicles in Darwin, Katherine and Alice Springs with number-plate recognition technology.
The Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system typically operates by capturing an image of the vehicle's number plate and then uses optical character recognition to "read" the information from the image for comparison against a database. These databases include the police's own vehicles of interest list and the NT Motor Vehicle Registry.
The NT Police said that in the past officers would have to stop a vehicle and make an inquiry back to base for information on the vehicle, which takes time. Under the new system, police would know if a vehicle was on the vehicles of interest list within three seconds.
The link to additional databases also means that police would be able to determine if a vehicle is associated with other crimes or if its registration has lapsed.
In particular, regional operations assistant commissioner Grahame Kelly said that the system would help reduce drug and alcohol smuggling in remote areas, by allowing the police to quickly identify cars associated with the crime.
At the moment, each of the three NT areas have only one ANPR-enabled vehicle. The Katherine and Alice Springs systems have been funded by the Federal Government, while the State Government has funded the Darwin system. Each system costs $20,000.
The NT Police has plans to equip two more vehicles with the new system and are currently in the process of deciding which regions will require them.
Similar systems are currently in use in other areas of Australia, including Queensland, which started using ANPR technology in April this year.