How the new ‘smart number plates’ will help fight crime - Matiang’i

How the new ‘smart number plates’ will help fight crime - Matiang’i

The new generation number plates unveiled on Tuesday by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i.

  • The plates use the FE-Schrift typeface, which is a sans serif typeface introduced in the late 1970s for use on licence plates.
  • Its monospaced letters and numbers are slightly disproportionate to prevent easy modification and to improve machine readability.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i says the new generation number plates unveiled on Tuesday are set to be a breakthrough in the fight against terrorism, theft and other crimes.

According to the Interior CS, the existing car number plates lack adequate security features, making it difficult for enforcement agencies to identify swapped plates or illegal ones from backstreet enterprises.

Matiang’i has hailed the new ones as the masterstroke that will make things difficult for not just terrorists but also motorverhicle theft syndicates thriving in duplication and faking of number plates.

While citing the 2019 DusitD2 complex attack in Nairobi, the CS said had Kenya been using the smart number plates, it would have been easy to nab the militants before the attack.

“When we were hit during Dusit d2, it was because terrorists gained vehicles and acquired number plates in a fraudulent manner, and it was very difficult to trace them within the time they were around,” said Matiang’i.

So, what is it about the new plates which makes it hard to dodge the law?

For beginners, the plates use the FE-Schrift typeface, which is a sans serif typeface introduced in the late 1970s for use on licence plates.

Its monospaced letters and numbers are slightly disproportionate to prevent easy modification and to improve machine readability.

Additionally, the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) says the new plates will incorporate microchip technology and several anti-counterfeit security features that will render them practically impossible to imitate.

Besides the unique template, the new plates have a specially-imprinted national flag, a hologram imprinted on it and a watermark. 

They will also have unique and different serial numbers – for both the rear and front plates – that are linked to the vehicle’s chassis number. 

The smart plates are easily identifiable to law enforcement officers and will also store key motor vehicle information such as year of manufacturer, type and colour of vehicle, engine number, transmission type, date and place of manufacture, and insurance details. 

According to Matiang’i, this will nab criminals who have been swapping registration plates to carry out their activities without being caught.

“Criminals have been driving cars around with number plates that were initially issued to tractors. There are many bankers that have been left holding logbooks registered in a fraudulent manner since they cannot trace the vehicles used as collateral,” he said.

Once a vehicle is imported into the country, it will be fixed with the plates at the point of entry, where information about it will be synchronised with NTSA and Kenya Revenue Authority systems to curb tax evasion in the car import business.

Matiang’i said the chain of registration will require building a database of all the vehicles registered right at the point of entry and linking the databases of the NTSA and the National Police Service to make it difficult to trade in motor vehicles that are stolen from other countries. 

The government plans to phase out the old generation plates in the next 18 months, and Kenyans will be required to pay Ksh.3,000 to get the new ones.

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