Catching more road tax dodgers would have been a result in itself - some 1.76 million vehicles on the road are untaxed at a cost of £190m in lost revenue. But an initiative that proves successful in tackling motoring offences is also likely to detect more serious crimes.
Four years ago, PA Consulting Group realised that automatic number-plate recognition systems (ANPR) - capturing registration numbers from camera images - could be an even more powerful policing tool if integrated with central and local intelligence sources and police intercept teams.
The Association of Chief Police Officers agreed to undertake a pilot to see if ANPR could contribute substantially to detecting crime and examine whether money from fines would part-fund the initiative. Various government departments had dabbled in ANPR before, but there had been no co-ordination.
PA established a cross-department steering group to oversee the pilot and co-ordinate intelligence gathering.
A six-month trial across nine police forces showed that a major increase in detections was achievable for both minor offences and serious crimes.
Less than a year later, ANPR had been installed by more than half the forces in England and Wales. PA also developed guidelines to allow the police to recover enforcement costs from the £1m in fines generated from ANPR.
Since police forces lack a common IT infrastructure and share few protocols, PA devised a simple performance-tracking tool that offered swift feedback on relative performance. PA also tracked cases through the criminal justice system from arrest to conviction, proving that ANPR-enabled officers were many times more effective than police without the capability.
Over an 18-month period, intercept officers made more than 16,500 arrests - 10 times the normal rate - and only a quarter of these were for driving offences. More than 300 offensive weapons and 21 firearms were confiscated from resulting vehicle searches. Drugs worth £500,000 were also seized during the period. The government now plans to introduce legislation for a national roll-out.
Following successful trials by PA Consulting, automatic number-plate recognition systems provided a breakthrough in catching offenders, with arrests made at 10 times the normal rate.
- Monitor and measure project benefits.
- Standardise data collection and analysis to ensure faster feedback.
- Devise performance-tracking systems to foster best practice and self-improvement.
SHORTLISTED Consultancy: Atos Consulting Client: Defence Logistics Organisation Consultancy: LogicaCMG Client: London Borough of Waltham Forest Consultancy: Pinnacle-PSG Client: Calico Consultancy: Siemens Business Services Client: National Savings & Investments