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Cablegate: Video Surveillance in Germany: Perspectives From Nrw

VZCZCXRO7209
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN RUEHLZ
RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHDF #0013/01 0771836
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 171836Z MAR 08
FM AMCONSUL DUSSELDORF
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0124
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE
RUEHDF/AMCONSUL DUSSELDORF 0140

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DUSSELDORF 000013

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PTER KCRM GM
SUBJECT: VIDEO SURVEILLANCE IN GERMANY: PERSPECTIVES FROM NRW


DUSSELDORF 00000013 001.2 OF 002


Sensitive but Unclassified -- Not for Internet Distribution

1. (SBU) Summary: The Duesseldorf Police Chief recently
discussed in considerable depth with CG the use and limitations
of video surveillance. The North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW) law,
under which he operates, places much stricter limits on such
surveillance by the police than by non-police cameras, which are
becoming increasingly common. Although the population feels
itself safer with more cameras, his Department and the NRW
Interior Ministry decided against expanding their use for
practical and political reasons. He expected increased use of
surveillance technology by non-police actors, on which law
enforcement will draw on a case-by-case basis, such as happened
with the 2006 Cologne "suitcase bomber" case. In view of recent
national legal cases about the acceptability of surveillance by
law enforcement and other agencies, these comments provide
insight into senior city level thinking on video monitoring,
which has applications for combating terrorism. End Summary.

-------------------------------
Police vs. Private Surveillance
-------------------------------

2. (SBU) In an extensive February 26 conversation with CG,
Duesseldorf Police Chief Herbert Schenkelberg shared his
experience and views on video surveillance by the police. As in
all other states in Germany, NRW law strictly limits such
surveillance, with cameras at only four sites in the entire
state (Duesseldorf, Moenchengladbach, Bielefeld, and Coesfeld).
The legal standards governing their use by the police are
inordinately higher, and connected to particularly high crime
rates. The law allows private cameras to operate everywhere
they are not explicitly forbidden. This results in a huge
difference between police and private camera use. For example,
the Cologne "suitcase-bomber" of July case was solved with the
help of video recordings provided by Deutsche Bahn, not the
police.

-----------------------------------
Public Perception: A Mixed Message
-----------------------------------

3. (SBU) The Duesseldorf police chief observed that a majority
of citizens do not seem to have a problem with video
surveillance in public locations, while they strongly oppose
telephone tapping and internet surveillance. He noted that most
people do not feel "watched," but rather safer, as public
perceptions tend to focus on social groups such as drug dealers,
alcoholics or groups of disruptive youth. The public tends not
to know the difference between police and non-police
surveillance, he stated.

----------------------------------------
How Effective can Video Surveillance be?
----------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Schenkelberg said practical experience in the
Duesseldorf police has raised a number of questions about the
effectiveness of video surveillance, both in the public and law
enforcement community. Some question its deterrent effect,
pointing out neither the cameras did not prevent the Cologne
suitcase bombers nor the July 7, 2005 London tube terrorist
attacks, nor high crime rates in London, despite the high
concentration of surveillance camera. Others note that video
cameras often do not have the ability or resolution to zoom in
and positively identify potential criminals, which also hampers
surveillance efforts. Still others argue that video recordings
provide only a fuzzy image of events (especially at night on the
street) that have already taken place, and do not actually stop
crime. Even the images of a recent attack on a pensioner in a
Munich metro station were insufficient to identify the
attackers, and are unlikely to be admissible in court, he
maintained. He also pointed to considerable costs for
technology (116,000 euros for the Duesseldorf site alone), not
to mention personnel and maintenance costs, which during tighter
budgets had to be balanced against potential benefits and which
are often not as concrete as the public thinks. They are fairly
personnel intensive, which reduces officers on the beat. His
officers have also observed that many crimes, especially
drug-related, simply move to other locations after video
surveillance of a selected area is introduced. These factors
caused him to be skeptical of arguments that more surveillance
would necessarily produce more law enforcement benefits, he
stated.

--------------------------------
The Future of Video Surveillance
--------------------------------

5. (U) The police chief said he had come to the conclusion
after many years of observing video surveillance in practice
that it was not the panacea some think it is, but that it does

DUSSELDORF 00000013 002.2 OF 002


play a role in broader law enforcement strategy focused on
particular public spaces. They serve a useful purpose if the
technology is outstanding, the cameras are monitored 24/7, and
police officers are nearby and can react quickly. All of these
factors, however, were not as widely present as might be
desirable, he observed. He therefore saw no reason to lower the
legal hurdles that apply to video surveillance by the police. He
expected, however, that this practice would increase by other
actors, as it continued to serve a useful purpose, and that the
police would draw on these other sources on a case-by-case basis.

-------
Comment
-------

6. (SBU) In view of recent national legal cases about the
acceptability of surveillance by law enforcement agencies, the
Police Chief's comments provide insight into senior city level
thinking on video monitoring, which has applications for
combating terrorism. The Duesseldorf police seem satisfied with
the status quo, with a high legislative bar for permitting
police-related video activity and a reliance on non-police video
monitoring as required. Even if the bar for expanding police
surveillance were lower, however, experience seems to have
persuaded many in NRW that this method should only be a small
part of its broader law enforcement activities. If he is
correct that the German public tends to object less to video
than to other forms of surveillance by law enforcement
authorities, German popular sentiment against "big brother" type
activity would seem to be a more nuanced phenomenon.

7. (U) This message has been coordinated with Embassy Berlin.
HUMPHREYS

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