A new law is to make it possible to scan number plates in Germany to prosecute criminal offences. This could also lead to digital monitoring of vehicles in German low emission zones. Other EU states are leading the way.
The German government has presented a bill for the "further development of the Code of Criminal Procedure" (StPO). This is intended to make automated number plate scanning in public spaces possible. The police would thus be able to "automatically determine the licence plate number of motor vehicles as well as the place, date, time and direction of travel through the use of technical means" if there are indications of a criminal offence.
Although this bill per se is not aimed at low emission zones, the introduction of automated number plate reading systems (AKLS) would pave the way for digitalised monitoring of driving bans. Vehicles could, for example, be checked when entering a low emission zone and asked to pay if they violate the rules. This would make monitoring, which is currently still carried out individually by police or public order officers, much more efficient. The monitoring of diesel no-drive zones would also be significantly simplified, as currently not even a sticker is required for these zones, but each vehicle registration certificate must be checked individually. An enormous effort for the police.
In the Belgian environmental zones of the cities of Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent, where no sticker has to be purchased but registration is required, this is already common practice: the number plates of vehicles are scanned when entering the environmental zones and checked against a database. If a number plate is not recorded in the register, the owner of the vehicle will be fined between €150 and €350. The digital registration of number plates means that almost every infringement is punished. The Danish authorities also switched to digital monitoring of the environmental zones last year. Instead of the stickers previously required, licence plates are now scanned here too. However, only older diesel vehicles have to register manually in Denmark. Passenger cars are completely exempt from the rules of the low emission zones. In France, meanwhile, the newly introduced eco-lanes are monitored digitally. Several photos of a vehicle are taken to determine whether two or more people are being carried and the vehicle is therefore allowed to drive in an eco-lane.
According to the German draft law, there must still be "sufficient factual indications that an offence of considerable importance has been committed" for the scanning of licence plates to be permitted. If the new law is passed, however, scanning could soon also be applied to environmental zones, which would then be subject to much stricter controls.