BC license plate recognition

Bad boy, bad boy, we've got our eye on you!

The B.C. Lower Mainland has had a license plate recognition system that will be extended this year. The ALPR computer system was set up originally to target the prohibited, unlicensed or uninsured drivers.

The insurance program in this province is administered by ICBC, and the licensing and registration of vehicles is all tied to the license plate. The system works by information from the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) and the ICBC is downloaded into each ALPR computer.

The new system will go from the Lower Mainland to areas of high traffic, and even some of the the more remote locations. In the cities of Victoria, Kelowna and Nanaimo, there will be three units each. The units are $20,000 and the program will buy approximately 50.

With the units, there are six infrared cameras which are installed in police vehicles. These cameras pick up the vehicles passing by and relay the information to the system. The human could record about 100 plates per hour. The ALPR system can record 3,000 license plates per hour. If the vehicle scanned appears on the alert list, then an alarm goes off in the police car, and information is relayed as to what the issue is, such as a robbery suspect or a possible stolen vehicle.

The ALPR is hoped to help the policing efforts in North America, including combating terrorism and organized crime. The results so far are in. Between February 2007 and September 2009, more than 3.6 million license plates were scanned. The charges that resulted totaled 3,700, and included driving without a license, possession of drugs or stolen property, and some even were for breaching probation conditions.

The insurance answer
Just as photo radar has proved to be a deterrent for driving infractions, we can hope that the ALPR will help reduce car theft and driving without insurance. This will help to reduce claims, and in the long run, should help to reduce insurance costs. It does bring back memories of Orwell's "Big Brother is watching you".