30 vehicles seized in Norfolk police crackdown

Peter WalshThirteen people were arrested and more than 30 vehicles were seized yesterday as part of a major police operation in Norfolk aimed at criminals and dangerous drivers.Peter Walsh

Thirteen people were arrested and more than 30 vehicles were seized yesterday as part of a major police operation in Norfolk aimed at criminals and dangerous drivers.

Dozens of police officers stopped more than 150 vehicles, monitoring a number of key roads in the county with Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology to identify suspicious vehicles.

The crackdown, codenamed Operation Utah, involved traffic officers who stopped the vehicles and escorted them, by car, motorcycle or van, to sites at Costessey, King's Lynn, Thetford and Great Yarmouth, where specialist staff and drugs dogs inspected them, looking for wanted people and evidence of criminal offences.

As well as arrests on suspicion of offences including supply of drugs and burglary, officers seized more than 30 vehicles for offences including having no insurance. Their drivers will be issued with fixed-penalty notices and will have to pay recovery fees.

Other drivers were issued with fixed-penalty notices for offences including not wearing seatbelts and using mobile phones while driving.

Norfolk police Inspector Darren Elliot, who headed the operation, said: "We had sites across Norfolk where ANPR was used to identify vehicles that maybe used in crimes, vehicles that may not be insured, vehicles that might not have an MOT certificate or being used by disqualified drivers.

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"It was about bringing in the right vehicle, not just any vehicle. The message is Norfolk is a very safe place - the aims of this operation were to make it even safer and to deny the use of the roads to criminals in Norfolk."

Representatives from partner agencies including the DVLA, HM Revenue and Customs, Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) were also at each site to carry out their own inspections of the vehicles and their occupants.

Insp Elliott said: "It's about making sure we don't have dangerous vehicles on the road as well - making sure that Norfolk is safe because we've got safe vehicles on the road. We want to get uninsured drivers off the road."

Three cars had been identified by ANPR officers operating close to the Norfolk Showground at Costessey within the first 15 minutes of yesterday's operation, which started just before 10am, in what was to be a busy day.

ANPR cameras in the police vehicles read the number plates of passing traffic and, via a link with the Police National Computer database, automatically identify those vehicles that appear to have no insurance or other problems.

PC Jim Harris, a member of Hertfordshire police's ANPR intercept team, who joined officers from Norfolk for the day, said the technology was a vital tool in helping to keep roads safe as well as crime-free zones.

He said: "For some people it seems very much like Big Brother is watching you, but removing untaxed drivers and uninsured drivers from the road may help reduce road casualties and road deaths."

� Anyone with information about illegal or unsafe drivers should call 0845 456 4567.

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