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A national network of cameras and computers automatically logging car number plates will be in place within months, the BBC has learned.
Thousands of Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras are already operating on Britain's roads.
Police forces across England, Wales and Scotland will soon be able to share the information on one central computer.
Officers say it is a useful tool in fighting crime, but critics say the network is secretive and unregulated.
Kent's Chief Constable, Michael Fuller, commented: "We've seen an increase of some 40% of arrests since we've been using this technology.
"I'm very confident that we're using it properly and responsibly, and that innocent people have nothing to fear from the way we use it."
A number of local councils are signing up their Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) systems to the ANPR network. As long as the cameras are technically good enough, they can be adapted to take the software.
In towns such as Bradford, Portsmouth and Luton that means greater coverage for the police and more journeys captured and recorded.
John Dean, who is co-ordinating the ANPR network for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: "It's the finest intelligence-led policing tool we've got.
"It covers so many different areas from crime reduction, crime detection to road safety and everything in between."
Originally posted by zlots331
I was completely caught off guard when he told me that they were real time cameras that record every license plate of every car that the police drive by. Parked or moving, both sides of the street. I have to admit that I just stood there dumbfounded. You have got to be kidding.
Originally posted by yellowbeard
I don't know about anybody else but I'm really getting to the end of my rope with all this, can people take much more of this. I feel as if I have NO privacy left. I have nothing to hide, my vehicle is fully legal and I pay (too many) taxes but I'm being checked up on and watched everywhere I go and whatever I do. THIS MUST STOP.