Effective or Overrated? Millions for video surveillance in Hessen


In Hesse, the surveillance of public places with video technology is being further expanded. “Because we are convinced and know from practical experience that we are making a contribution to improving the security situation, the Hessian state government assumes two thirds of the acquisition costs for the installation of video protection systems by the municipalities,” said Interior Minister Peter Beuth (CDU) German press agency in Wiesbaden. In 2021, the expansion of video security technology in the municipalities is to be supported with 2.8 million euros – more money than ever before.

Since 2008, 300,000 euros have been made available by the state for the video security systems. In 2018, these funds were increased by one million to a funding amount of 1.3 million euros per year. In 2020, high-resolution video security systems were promoted in the cities of Wiesbaden, Darmstadt, Fulda, Gießen, Dietzenbach and Offenbach.

According to the Interior Minister, 24 protection zones with a total of 263 cameras were in operation at the seven Hessian police headquarters in a total of 19 cities for the joint use of police and hazard prevention authorities to monitor public streets and squares in 2020. In the previous year, the surveillance technology was used in 19 cities with 23 protection zones and 204 cameras.

The city of Limburg is planning another area in the city center in addition to the protection area at the train station, said the CDU politician. The city of Kassel is aiming for a renewal and expansion of video technology in Untere Königsstrasse. The city of Bad Vilbel also wants to upgrade its existing system with the latest technology.

For the Hessian data protection officer, cameras are only half the step. “More cameras alone do not necessarily mean more security if the cameras are not ‘monitored’ appropriately by the responsible authorities,” said a spokeswoman. The formula should therefore rather be: “No more cameras without sufficient personnel who consistently and continuously keep an eye on the image transmission.”

The Judges’ Association of Hesse warns that when video surveillance is expanded in public spaces, the personal rights of passers-by should be checked particularly carefully and weighed up where the technology can be used. “Crime in the public space must be effectively prevented and documented for criminal proceedings in a way that is conclusive,” said a spokeswoman. Video surveillance is one component of this. The spatially limited use of surveillance systems at crime hotspots is preferable to the surveillance of entire streets.

In scientific circles a certain effect of video surveillance is seen in the investigation of criminal offenses, said the police researcher Rafael Behr from the Hamburg Academy of Police. However, experts also agree that the preventive effect of video surveillance is greatly overrated.

The Hessian Association of Cities gives neither guidelines nor recommendations. “Whether video surveillance has a preventive effect depends very much on the location and the local conditions and needs,” said a spokesman. It can be observed here and there that the cameras may not prevent crime, but only relocate it.

In addition, according to the Hessian law on public safety and order for video surveillance, repeated crimes must have been committed at the appropriate point and there are indications of further crimes. For example, in Darmstadt it was decided to set up a video surveillance system for Luisenplatz, on which the cameras will soon be installed.

At the same time, the municipality had the marketplace and the place of German unity checked. “As a result, it was found that both places are not a focus of crime that would justify video surveillance,” said Mayor Rafael Reisser (CDU).


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