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Police oversight body criticises motorway security camera system

An ANPR security camera in Gent. (BELGA PHOTO JONAS D'HOLLANDER)
05:57 03/02/2022

Committee P, the oversight body which monitors the functioning of the police services, is harshly critical of the cameras that were placed along Belgian motorways after the 2016 terrorist attacks, Het Nieuwsblad reported on Wednesday.

After the attacks in Brussels, and those in Paris in 2015, dozens of ANPR cameras, which can read licence plates and link them to a database, were installed along the nation’s highways.

The system cost around €40 million and was designed to alert the authorities if a wanted or reported vehicle passed in front of a camera, allowing the police to intercept it. What was thought to be an extra level of security and protection turned out to be less effective than first expected, noted Committee P.

The Committee analysed what happens when a camera detects a vehicle reported as stolen. "The conclusion is clear: in many cases, no action is taken,” according to the oversight body. “The response by the police forces varies enormously: In the worst case, the chances of intercepting the vehicle are zero."

The report points to many reasons leading to such a situation: in 80% of cases, the cameras give false alarms. In addition, the shortage of personnel is a factor, both at the level of the control rooms of the provincial police and at the level of the teams in the field. Police rarely have the ability to intercept a suspicious car.

Written by Nick Amies