Hundreds of foreign and unregistered vehicles are getting away with motoring offences each year because police cannot trace them.

Sussex Police say 500 motorists have committed offences such as speeding and skipping red lights – but have gone unpunished because officers are unable to identify who is behind the wheel.

Police struggle to trace the culprits with foreign number plates and cannot access motoring databases abroad meaning the force loses an estimated £40,000 a year.

In Brighton and Hove, one foreign-registered vehicle has been flashed by speed cameras four times in a few months but police have been unable to find and prosecute the driver.

Across the county during the same period, 16 individual drivers have been captured on cameras committing multiple offences without punishment.

Police chiefs have now launched a crack-down by creating a ‘hot list’ of unregistered and foreign law-breaking vehicles that will be stopped if they are flagged up on police systems.

Traffic police will be scrambled to intercept any vehicles that pass police patrols or flag up on automatic number plate recognition cameras.

PC Andrew Huggett, of Sussex Police, said the initiative was the first of its kind in the country.

He said: “In Sussex a small percentage of road offences that we detect have to be abandoned because we cannot identify the driver responsible. We have to ask ourselves if there is a darker reason for these drivers wanting to remain anonymous.”

Unregistered or foreign-registered vehicles with offences will be stopped and the drivers questioned.

If the drivers deny being the owners they could face arrest, confiscation and prosecution.

Sussex Police said drivers who bought vehicles under false details were able to avoid prosecution for speeding or going through red lights.

Last year, The Argus revealed that Brighton and Hove City Council only received payment for 1.4% of parking tickets issued to vehicles with foreign number plates in 2012, worth more than £774,550.

If you see a vehicle being driven antisocially or suspiciously, text details to 65999 or report it at www.operation