Australian police tracking fire starters with number plate recognition

People known to the South Australian police as being at risk of starting fires will be tracked via number plate recognition technology during the 2017-18 bushfire season.

South Australia Police will be using its automated number plate recognition system to track people known to be at risk of starting fires during the 2017-18 bushfire season, it has announced.

Assistant Commissioner for South Australia Police Noel Bamford said the technology is being used as a mechanism for preventing bushfires across the state under Operation Nomad until May 2018.

"Police monitoring includes maintaining an index of specific vehicles of interest in our Mobile Automated Number Plate recognition system," Bamford explained.

The state's police had used the system last year to identify 86 persons of interest, with 15 of those arrested for fire starting and related offences.

South Australia Police a year ago similarly began using facial-recognition technology to identify persons of interest and missing persons, though it did not say whether this system would be used under Operation Nomad.

In August 2016, NEC was awarded a AU$780,000 contract to implement facial-recognition technology, with the state's police force able to compare images of suspects from such sources as closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage against offender databases, and identify people on real-time CCTV footage.

"Our police budget is at the highest level in history, with more front-line police soon to be on the beat than ever before," former Police Minister Peter Malinauskas said at the time.

"The world we live in is changing, and with that comes a need to change the way we police."

As of last month, South Australia is also implementing digital driver's licences to allow citizens to respond to police requests in real time via an app.

"This technology will provide for ready access to licence information and proof-of-age identification for front line police officers," said Garry Dickie, South Australia Police director of Information Systems and Technology.

Expired and suspended licences will show an orange or red bar at the bottom of the photo, with the government claiming it undertook "extensive" security testing to ensure personal data will not be accessible to third parties.

Other technology being used by the state's police force includes a a 360-degree virtual reality (VR) firearms simulator system to train officers in the South Australia Police Academy as of July.

The simulator provides 3D audio and special effects of a simulated live fire range to train officers in tactical decision making and responses.

Malinauskas at the time said AU$480,000 had been provided by the state government for the purchase of the VR system.

New South Wales Police has received similar government funding for technology, in June being given AU$51 million under the 2017-18 Budget for its AU$100 million Policing for Tomorrow Technology Fund.

The funding will enable the continued rollout of body-worn video cameras, hand-held narcotic analysers, tablets, and fingerprint scanners for NSW Police.

With AAP

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