Number plate recognition system might have stopped Wellington pedestrian being hit by stolen car

By Melissa Nightingale

Chris Wilkinson says automatic number plate recognition systems could help combat theft in Wellington. File photo/Mark Mitchell
Chris Wilkinson says automatic number plate recognition systems could help combat theft in Wellington. File photo/Mark Mitchell

A number plate recognition system could have prevented a woman being hit by a fleeing car during a police chase in Wellington last month, a retail group says.

Police had tried to pull over the stolen car on January 30 after a shop theft in Lyall Bay, but instead the driver sped away towards the city.

Fifteen minutes later the car crossed a raised median island and hit a woman, who was on foot. She was not seriously injured.

The crash highlights a need for preventative technology that can help police catch offenders earlier, First Retail Group director Chris Wilkinson said.

An automatic number plate recognition system can be installed in car parks and shopping centres, and holds a database of number plates for vehicles of interest, such as stolen cars.

When the system recognises the number plate, information is immediately sent to police, who can show up and prevent further crime.

"If a vehicle's stolen, there's a high chance that further mischief is planned for that vehicle," Wilkinson said.

Police could stopped the Lyall Bay offender before he got back into the stolen car and fled the scene, he said.

"Most large shopping centres in the UK have them, all of the police cars in the UK have them.

"There's a certain guardianship required by large property owners, knowing that this kind of technology is available."

Although some might consider the technology Big Brother-like, it was "essentially non-invasive", only looking at vehicles that were deemed "at-risk", Wilkinson said.

"This is all about taking a proactive stance on these kinds of high-risk potential situations."

Property owners would not have access to the number plate databases, he said.

"This will only benefit our city."

The systems could help tackle the rise in threatening thefts and "thefts to order".

Although reported shop thefts in Wellington's CBD are declining, there has been an increase in theft to order, as well as in thieves entering stores and threatening staff.

Theft to order refers to entering a shop with a list of things to steal in large amounts, rather than swiping one or two items.

"This has been a change that's happening across New Zealand, it's becoming more prolific," Wilkinson said.

"They're going into these stores taking not one but 10 of these items, which is very, very concerning for retailers."

The rise in threatening thefts was becoming "a bit of a challenge" as well.

- NZ Herald

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