HI-TECH anti-crime cameras have gone up on roads around Ballymoney in recent weeks.
The cameras can automatically scan car number plates to detect everything from no road tax and no insurance to providing information to combat serious crime and terrorism.
‘Hot’ number plates can be recognised to immediately send an alert to police in the area to intercept vehicles.
A source said: “These cameras are pretty revolutionary and although you may get some people saying it is like being watched by big brother the argument is that if you nothing to hide you will have nothing to fear.
“But where the technology could come in to its own is that say there were details of the number plate of a car used by a suspected terrorist it could be flagged up if it was in a certain area or again if there was a robbery and somebody got a number plate it could be put into the system and if that car passes one of these cameras a message would be triggered to police.”
The source added it will be interesting to see if the presence of the cameras leads to people, who perhaps are driving untaxed cars taking circuitous routes around Ballymoney in a bid to avoid the cameras.
Locations for the ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) cameras include the A26 close to the Kirk Road and Roddenfoot.
The A26 is regarded as one of the main arterial routes in Northern Ireland.
A PSNI spokesman told the Times: “These cameras are part of the PSNI’s use of ANPR technology. ANPR works by scanning vehicle registrations and checking them against information stored in databases to identify vehicles of interest such as stolen vehicles or those involved in crimes.
“This technology coupled with immediate follow up police action, via police intercept, will assist Police to enforce the law, prevent crime and contribute to road safety. It is an invaluable tool in assisting with crime reduction measures. The technology will also assist casualty reduction by removing unsafe vehicles and drivers from our roads.”
Similar cameras have been erected in a number of areas of Northern Ireland and there will be both static and mobile cameras.
The PSNI spokesman added: “The cameras are designed to promote and protect the safety of everyone in the community. Police will use the cameras to discharge their obligations to protect life, to prevent and detect crime and to proactively ensure road safety.
“The cameras will make a valuable contribution in four key areas: Enforcing the law; Promoting road safety; Investigating accidents; Patrolling roads.
“They will also contribute to PSNI’s aims in reducing road user related crime, providing a safer environment for all communities. The cameras can be static or mobile and are focused purely on vehicular traffic.
“PSNI have installed these cameras in line with core policing objectives to enhance our ability to successfully deliver on the aims agreed within the Policing Plan,” said the spokesman.
Last June it was reported the PSNI was to get up to £12.5 million to enhance technology that allows them to track the movements of cars and other vehicles.
The PSNI have been using an Automatic Number Plate Recognition system for a number of years, but this will now be improved.
Last year, North Antrim DUP MP Ian Paisley Junior said: “This system is crucial in tracking illegal trade and terrorist suspects.”
He said that he would be seeking assurances that it would “have no impact on police manpower”.