This weekend is the Climate Camp Swoop, and environmental activists will be heading to Radcliffe power station in Nottingham for the mass action. Many will be travelling by road, but Climate Camp activists driving to Radcliffe on the 17th October should be prepared to take a few precautions if they want to avoid being picked up by vehicle surveillance.
Police ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Reader) units have been used before at Climate Camp actions to alert police to the arrival of ‘known’ activists. Police at Kingsnorth used ANPR to monitor and intercept activist cars as they arrived. It is possible that a similar strategy will be used in Nottingham.
The police have for some years been collecting the vehicle registration numbers of vehicles used to get to protests, gatherings and even meetings. If your registration number is on this list, it could be picked up by the ANPR system.
How does ANPR work?
Motorways have permanent ANPR cameras, but mobile units can also be used on minor roads. Mobile ANPR units can be covert and hard to spot, but they are usually transit sized vans marked with camera symbols.
The cameras automatically read the number plates of cars passing by. The on-board computer then checks the numbers against a number of different databases. This is usually car registration, insurance, MOT etc, but the ANPR units can also check if your car is on a list of ‘protest’ vehicles.
If the ANPR flags up a ‘hit’ the police can be instructed either to simply note the fact you have arrived (perhaps flagging you up for more targeted surveillance), or to intercept the car. If you are stopped the police have powers to search the car similar to those they would use on a pedestrian (see below).
How do I avoid getting picked up by ANPR?
This is a fairly new police tactic, so advice in avoiding ANPR is based on informed guesswork only. There are no guarantees!
If possible, drive a car that has never been used to get to a protest or gathering before. In theory at least, if you have not used your car in ‘protest related activity’ before, it should not be picked up.
Borrow a vehicle from friends and family rather than hire one. Hire cars were routinely picked up by ANPR readers in Kingsnorth, so are not the ideal choice!
Don’t take a car without insurance and MOT – ANPRs are routinely used to pick up cars that are not street legal.
Take a longer, quieter route in. At Kingsnorth ANPR was put on the major access routes. The police have limited ANPR resources and can’t put all roads under surveillance, although they will try to cover those routes that are hardest to avoid.
Get dirty. ANPR readers need a standard, UK, clean number plate to get a read. Non-standard number plates, foreign plates and plates that are very dirty cause problems for the ANPR. You might want to drive down a very wet muddy road before you get there.
What should I do if notice an ANPR unit by the side of the road?
Note down all the details – location, direction, time etc – and let others know who may be travelling that way. And please tell us – the more info we have, the better we can keep track of what they are up to.
What powers do they have to stop and search a vehicle?
The police have the power to stop any vehicle, and ask the driver for their driving licence. Contrary to what some coppers say, you do not have to carry your driving licence with you, although you can be asked to produce it at a police station of your choice within seven days.
The driver of the vehicle is obliged to give their name, address and date of birth (s164 s165 Road Traffic Act 1988). The police have NO powers to demand the names and addresses of passengers. If they ask anyone other than the driver for their details they should be politely told where to go.
Police can carry out the stop and search of a vehicle under the same provisions applying to people on foot. A section 60 order, if in place, also applies to vehicles. Otherwise the police can search under PACE, but need the normal reasonable suspicion that they may find weapons, articles that could be used to cause criminal damage etc. They do not need the owners consent.
IF YOU ARE NOTICE ANPR CAMERAS EN ROUTE, OR IF YOUR VEHICLE IS STOPPED BY POLICE ON THE WAY TO THE CLIMATE CAMP ACTION, PLEASE LET US KNOW AT FITWATCH.