AN EXTRA fifty police camera sites are to be introduced across Merseyside as the new Matrix Serious Organised Crime unit launches a crackdown on travelling criminals using the county's roads and motorways.

The network of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras will be paid for by selling cars and other vehicles seized from criminals proved to have been bought using proceeds from crime.

Chief Superintendent Mark Harrison said: "ANPR is a vital tool in our fight against serious and organised crime.

"Expanding it will increase our capability, and that of other law enforcement agencies here in the Northwest, to identify how criminals are travelling around, where they are going and what they are doing.

"Ultimately, this will lead to more criminals being arrested, stolen vehicles and illegal commodities being seized and serious crime being reduced in our neighbourhoods."

Chief Supt Harrison added: "It is satisfying knowing that these extra cameras and camera sites will be paid for by the criminals we are catching.

"We will be selling vehicles and other property that we seize from criminals using Proceeds of Crime legislation and ploughing that money back into crime-fighting.

"I am sure the public will see this as a good thing and I would like to assure law-abiding people that they have nothing to fear from these cameras.

"They do not monitor speed, they simply check the number plate against a database.

"It is the criminals using our road networks to carry out crime that should really be worried."

The ANPR system works by automatically reading the registration of every vehicle that passes through it.

The registration is then checked against a range of databases, including the Police National Computer, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and local police intelligence systems.

Officers can then instantly tell if the vehicle is of interest to police - for instance if it has being stolen or been used in a recent crime - and then take necessary action.

The move to expand the ANPR network follows a recent review of the use of technology and the launch of the strategy in tackling organised crime groups who police say are becoming ever more sophisticated in their methods and diverse in the crimes they commit.