The Queensland Audit Office has criticised the accuracy of the automatic number plate recognition cameras used by the state's police force, finding they only correctly clocked offences in 19 percent of cases.
ANPR technology is used to identify vehicles that aren’t registered, owners of registered vehicles who don’t have a valid Queensland drivers license, stolen vehicles, and those suspected of being involved in an offence.
In its report, [pdf] the QAO found that, on average, cameras issued as part of the so-called ENACT project were accurate in only 19.1 percent of cases.
The high failure rate was attributed to problems in the character recognition software, which struggles to identify the differences between similar-looking letters, such as O and Q.
The report also warned that the number of false positive reads, where a number plate on an unregistered vehicle is mistaken for a registered vehicle, was unknown.
An additional problem, the auditor said, is that the Department of Transport and Main Roads is behind schedule on the integration of key back-end systems.
It cited the lack of interoperability between TMR's transport registration and integrated licensing system (TRAILS) database and the ANPR system.
This means issuing tickets for offences caught using one of the 12 ANPR cameras requires the manual intervention of an officer.
The report noted while this integration was specified in an implementation plan from October 2014, it has still not been rolled out.
Delays in the project has meant the rollout of the cameras by Queensland Police has been placed on ice, the auditor wrote.
"Until this integration occurs, the ability for police to intercept unregistered and uninsured vehicles is less than under the previous system, where a registration label was required to be displayed."
The ANPR issues have been compounded by poor quality film used in older analog cameras and difficulties reading some customised number plates, meaning many speeding motorists are never fined.
QAO also noted that while 14 mobile ANPR cameras were supposed to have been rolled out by October 2014, only one was in operation. The remainder went live six months later.
The hold-up was attributed to a number of issues, including difficulty installing cameras and a lack of wi-fi interoperability.
Queensland Police first announced plans to put at least one automatic number plate recognition box in the state's eight police regions by mid-2012 in 2011, purchasing its first units from vendor Aspect. Similar technology had previously been rolled out in Victoria.
With its original contract set to expire in April next year, Queensland Police issued a tender for the further rollout of ANPR systems earlier this year.
The tender documents specified standalone ANPR systems and accompanying back office software that can be used with any installed in-vehicle hardware.
Queensland Police also specified a minimum accuracy rate of 95 percent, and asked for the system to be able to support the interrogation of a database containing at least 6 million number plates.