Bukit Aman has announced that it will begin deploying Automated Number Plate Readers (ANPR) to reduce road accidents. Some 20 ANPR cameras will eventually be in use around the country, as the police aims to combat “hardcore traffic offenders”.
ANPR cameras are specifically tasked with recognising number plates, and allow the police to rapidly process and catalogue passing traffic. This essentially means that the police will be able to check hundreds of license plates against the database in Bukit Aman. If the camera turns up a vehicle with a large amount of outstanding summonses, the officers on duty will be able to immediately detain the driver.
These cameras can be mounted on any vehicle, where it will be able to monitor all passing license plates. It isn’t exactly clear who the police are targeting with this technology, as Federal traffic police chief Senior Asst Comm Datuk Mohd Fuad Abdul Latiff said that the cameras would also be shared with the CID and Narcotics Crime Investigation Department. At the moment, it looks like generic surveillance of the public.
Automated law enforcement isn’t entirely new, and ANPR cameras have been deployed in various countries around the world. However, the use of blanket surveillance has lead to privacy questions as the cameras could potentially allow the government to track the movement of individuals. This is less likely with the Malaysian police, considering that the number of cameras to be deployed is still rather limited. Of course, this could change if more cameras are added to the programme.
Furthermore, the accuracy of ANPR cameras has been called into question. A study from the University of Hertfordshire discovered that the cameras can easily be confused by screw caps (causing up to 72-percent misreads), especially if the caps were located within the numbers. While, UK number plates differ from Malaysia plates in that they use a while background which makes the screw caps more prominent, it does not inspire confidence in the accuracy of the system.
The first phase of the ANPR will cost RM30mil, which presumably includes the cost of the central server in Bukit Aman. SAC Mohd Fuad has said that the cameras will be rolled out within two months and located at nine entry and exit points around the country.
[Source: The Star]