CROOKS and dodgy drivers will be targeted by new cameras at Essex hotspots.

Essex Police is spending £375,000 over the next two years putting permanent automatic number plate recognition cameras on roads in the county.

The locations are being kept secret to stop those breaking the law avoiding certain roads.

The cameras can scan thousands of number plates every hour.

These readings are crosschecked with a database which flags up if a car is stolen, or has no insurance, tax or valid MoT. If so, an alert is raised.

Vans fitted out with the equipment have proven successful in catching criminals wanted for other offences.

The money could purchase as many as 25 permanent cameras, depending on support from Essex County Council.

The force is spending £125,000 in 2014/15 and £250,000 in 2015/16.

A police spokesman said: “Essex Police, in co-operation with Essex County Council, is seeking to improve part of the camera infrastructure.

“The current cameras provide data only and these improvements will provide an increased level of evidence and intelligence.”