A group of Germans are taking the law into their own hands. Activists from CAM OVER are destroying as many security cameras as possible ahead of the European Police Congress in Berlin, which starts on February 19. But for our Observer, who is passionately anti-CCTV, vandalism is counter-productive.
Video uploaded by CAM OVER (January 3)
CAM OVER activists want to see German streets free of surveillance cameras. They believe CCTV cameras help the police discriminate against certain groups of people they stereotype as criminals. Through its blog, the group is encouraging others to follow suit and take part in their so-called ‘game’, which ends the day the Congress starts.
A failed bomb attack at Bonn train station last December has thrust the surveillance debate into the spotlight in Germany. The police do not have recordings showing how a bag containing a homemade bomb ended up on the platform. Even though surveillance cameras were installed at the station, the images filmed were not recorded on file.
Following the would-be blast in Bonn, Germany’s Interior Minister has called for additional cameras and more comprehensive surveillance in public places across the country.
A recent report published by the Interior Ministry claims crime reduced by 19.5% between 2010-2011 in areas installed with surveillance cameras in the state of Hesse.
The coordinator of the European Police Congress, Martin Jung, says “Germans are increasingly accepting that security cameras prevent crime and help catch criminals”. He adds, “in a public place like a train station, who cares if there are security cameras?” But some Germans do care.
“If you work with fear you’ll always get bad results”
Michael Ebeling volunteers with the anti-CCTV group AK Vorrat in Hanover and is a principal member of Freedom not Fear, a network of groups and individuals from across Europe opposed to public surveillance. He organises non-violent ways of fighting against security cameras.
I’m able to understand why people from CAM OVER are so upset about security cameras and I agree with many of their viewpoints. But their style is definitely not my "style" - my personal style is absolutely violence-free.When AK Vorrat first started in five years ago, I decided to make myself a giant security camera from garbage and old furniture. I started walking around in the streets of Hanover wearing it, and now my colleagues do it too.
Photo of Michael in his camera box in Hamburg, Germany (29 December 2012)
The rule is to not say a word and just act like a camera - follow, look, listen. Some people ignore you, while others acknowledge you and have fun with it. But even those who ignore you, they start changing their behaviour after a few minutes.Written on the back of the camera box is the slogan “no right to be left alone?” - a simple, open question which makes people think. We’re doing more good than an angry demonstration that can makes people fearful.I put my faith in making sustainable changes to the way the public think about security cameras - making people think for themselves so they realise most surveillance measures are senseless and a waste of money.
Screenshot of a video showing an AK Vorrat group member placing a sign with a bomb drawn on it outside the Parliament for Lower Saxony in Hanover. The scene took place in full view of a security camera. The group waited roughly 15 minutes for a reaction from the police before giving up. Click here to watch the full video, which shows the stunt being pulled at three different official buildings.
“CAM OVER’s actions are counter-productive”The members of the public who see CAM OVER won’t understand the message about CCTV cameras - they’ll just see aggressive people in balaclavas, which might make them think more cameras would be a good thing. So CAM OVER’s actions are counter-productive.If you work with fear you’ll always get bad results. People reaching their own decisions is more sustainable than creating fear: freedom not fear!