PSNI Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras are used in various types of patrol cars, Roads Policing patrol cars, as well as at dedicated fixed sites.

Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR)

Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology, which reads and retains vehicle registration plates, is used by the Police Service of Northern Ireland in both a fixed and mobile capacity throughout Northern Ireland.

ANPR provides lines of enquiry and evidence in the investigation of crime and is used by forces throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

How it works

As a vehicle passes an ANPR camera, its registration number is read and instantly checked against database records of vehicles of interest.  Police officers can intercept and stop a vehicle, check it for evidence and, where necessary, make arrests.  The use of ANPR in this way has proved to be important in the detection of many offences, including locating stolen vehicles, tackling uninsured vehicle use and uncovering cases of major crime.  It also allows officers’ attention to be drawn to offending vehicles whilst allowing law abiding drivers to go about their business unhindered.

Access to stored data

The PSNI retains and analyses ANPR data collected in Northern Ireland. We have clear rules controlling access to ANPR data and we adhere to the National ANPR Standards for Policing and Law Enforcement. Staff only have access to ANPR data if it is relevant to their role, and the majority of those who have permission may only do so for a maximum period of 90 days from the date it was collected. Certain staff are authorised to access data older than 90 days subject to further scrutiny. After 90 days, access may only be for serious, major or counter terrorism investigations and where a senior officer has authorised access.

Camera locations

In addition to being mounted on police vehicles, ANPR cameras within Northern Ireland are used at fixed locations where they will help to detect, deter and disrupt criminality.  In line with national policy, we do not disclose details of our fixed locations as this information is likely to be of benefit to offenders and if known could reduce the value of ANPR to policing.

National guidelines state that, if PSNI proposes to install additional ANPR cameras, an assessment must be conducted that demonstrates a clear need, taking account of the following factors:

  • National security and counter terrorism;
  • serious, organised and major crime;
  • local crime;
  • public confidence and reassurance, and crime prevention and reduction.

In assessing whether new cameras are to be deployed, a Data Protection Impact Assessment will be undertaken.  We will consult with persons and organisations with a reasonable interest in the proposal unless that would be contrary to the purpose of the development, namely to detect, deter and disrupt criminality.PSNI is also committed to regularly review the location of ANPR cameras, in the context of the above criteria, to make sure that the continued deployment remains justified.  All reviews will include consideration of the impacts on privacy.

Code of Practice and National Standards

The Surveillance Camera Code of Practice defines guiding principles for the use of ANPR which are applicable to police systems.  In addition National ANPR Standards for Policing (NASPLE) also provide the framework for the operation of ANPR by the police and other law enforcement agencies. Copies of these documents are available at the website.


ANPR supports the police to:

  • Disrupt criminal use of motor vehicles
  • Locate and recover stolen vehicles
  • Prevent and detect crime
  • Arrest offenders
  • Identify and prosecute offenders using illegal, un-insured and un-taxed vehicles