04 March 2006

Licence plate cameras in Ardoyne


The North Belfast News has learned that a PSNI camera, designed to automatically log car licence plate numbers, has been installed at Ardoyne shops.
The Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) camera is operated by the PSNI and it is attached to their CCTV camera pole, which is positioned at the shopfronts in Ardoyne.
A similar device operates at Carlisle Circus.
The PSNI said the CCTV and ANPR cameras had an “impact across the full range of policing from public order to the prevention and detection of crime”.
A spokesman for the Ardoyne Focus Group said the cameras were useless in terms of protecting people and property from crime and alleged they were part of the PSNI’s political policing.
“The Focus Group would have grave concerns around the issue of political policing, and this just reinforces the perception that this is more of the same,” the spokesman said.
“I think the general perception from people around here is that this will be an intelligence gathering exercise, given the history of the CCTV cameras, they’ve been totally ineffective in terms of prevention and being able to prosecute after the event.
A PSNI spokesman confirmed two ANPR cameras operate in North Belfast.
“Both are located on main arterial routes where there is considerable traffic flow and have been in operation for several months,” he said.
“Both units were also mounted together with existing CCTV equipment to reduce costs. However, at this time a final costing is not available. There is also a mobile camera unit available that has been in use across the North Belfast DCU since November 2005.”
The last time these ‘sophisticated’ cameras were in the news was after the murder of Bellaghy Catholic Sean Brown in 1997. The 61-year-old was locking up the Wolfe Tone GAA club when he was abducted and brutally murdered by the LVF. His killers brazenly drove twice past similar cameras outside Toome barracks, once with their victim in the car. The RUC said the cameras were unable to pick up the licence plate number of the killers’ car.
The Ardoyne Focus Group said people will consider the new camera as another spying operation.
“The rationale the PSNI is giving is totally disingenuous. This isn’t about crime reduction, this is about intelligence gathering. Political policing is still a live issue and this just highlights it.”
Meanwhile another CCTV camera is planned for Glenbank/Crumlin Road, the PSNI has confirmed, to “assist in reducing the number of attacks on buses.”
“This camera is being erected in a close partnership with Belfast City Council,” the PSNI spokesman said.

Journalist:: Áine McEntee

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