Automated Licence Plate Recognition

Automated Licence Plate Recognition (ALPR) is a tool that is being used more frequently for traffic law enforcement in B.C. Cameras mounted on police vehicles scan vehicle licence plates as they pass and compare them to a computer database. A "hit" in the database is announced to the patrolling officer and the vehicle will be stopped for investigation.

ALPR is an effective tool for the detection of prohibited and unlicensed drivers. These offenders were usually discovered incidentally during the investigation of an unrelated driving offence in past. Today thousands of vehicles per hour can be checked and these drivers positively singled out. During 2013, 1,944 drivers were charged for driving without a driver's licence, 313 for driving while prohibited and 416 had notices of driving prohibition served to them at roadside.

The detection of stolen vehicles, licence plates and licence validation decals, people with warrants and Amber Alerts are other uses that ALPR may be put to. The 2013 statistics appear to indicate that "hits" in these categories are not nearly as frequent as unlicensed and prohibited drivers. 34 outstanding warrants discovered was the highest total from this group.

Since ALPR can be used to store information about when and where a vehicle was encountered, many people have privacy concerns about its use. In British Columbia this information is only stored for "hits" that have resulted in enforcement action. The balance of the data is deleted. The Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner is the provincial agency responsible for the oversight of ALPR data collection.


The author is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. To comment or learn more, please visit drivesmartbc.ca.

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About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

To comment, please email

To learn more, visit DriveSmartBC

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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