Police have asked Totnes council to finance the installation of automatic number-plate recognition cameras (ANPRs) amid a steep rise in reported crime in the town.

Neighbourhood team PC Zoe Carter made the request on behalf of the force to fund four ANPRs at a council meeting this week as South Devon Police will not pay for the cameras.

ANPRs ‘read’ the registration numbers of passing vehicles, which are then instantly checked against a database record. They are used by police forces throughout the UK.

PC Carter explained that the ANPRs would be deployed to tackle serious crime and not for dealing with ordinary traffic offences.

“They won’t be there to spy on people as such,” she said.

Elsewhere in the country, the Metropolitan Police says it stores a record of all vehicles that pass by a camera, including those that are “not known to be of interest at the time of the read”.

Each camera would cost Totnes council £5,000, should it agree to the request, but the maintenance costs would be covered by the police.

The location of each ANPR would not be revealed, but they would be placed so that all routes in and out of Totnes are covered.

The request was made at the June council meeting
The request was made at the June council meeting (RT)

PC Carter said an ANPR camera installed in Dartmouth had seen “unbelievable results” in helping to investigate crime.

She said: “We’ve had instances in Dartmouth where properties have been burgled and they’ve ended up in Totnes, but we’ve not known that until days later when someone by chance has come across the car.

“With an ANPR we’d almost certainly be able to arrest them pretty immediately. For us it would be one of the best assets we could ever have in reducing crime in Totnes.”

The comments come as crime in Totnes has more than tripled in less than a year from 25 cases in May 2023 to 80 this April, according to official figures.

The most commonly reported offences are for criminal damage and arson (19), followed by anti-social behaviour, with 15 cases. ‘Other theft’ accounted for 14 cases, while there were 12 instances of violent crime, including sexual offences.