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Tool for federal police investigations: Surveillance cameras for Bonn Central Station

Tool for federal police investigations : Surveillance cameras for Bonn Central Station

Following an attempted bomb attack at Bonn Central Station in 2012, investigators had to rely on video footage from a nearby McDonald’s restaurant. Now, there are several surveillance cameras installed at the main train station.

Some of you may have already noticed them: There are now several 360-degree surveillance cameras on Track 1 at Bonn Central Station. According to research by the General-Anzeiger, at least eight of these cameras are distributed over the part of the platform on Track 1 that is currently not blocked off due to construction work. There is also a surveillance camera at the eastern end of the platform on Tracks 2 and 3.

In December 2019, the situation was much different. After several inquiries from our newspaper, the federal police admitted at the time that no cameras were installed because of the construction site at Bonn Central Station.

Several years ago, the lack of camera footage made it difficult to investigate an attempted bomb attack at the train station. In December of 2012, a man from Bonn left a blue bag on Platform 1. Inside was a bomb, which fortunately did not explode. Cameras were installed on Platform 1, but failed to record the incident. The Deutsche Bahn and the German Federal Police blamed each other at the time. The federal police accused the railway of not being willing to expand its recording capacities. Deutsche Bahn, in turn, criticized that the federal police had not given an order to record footage.

Then last November an incident at Bonn Central Station caused a stir. Members of left and right wing groups clashed. For their investigation, federal police officers were dependent on camera footage from the regional train and private cell phone recordings. Surveillance cameras on Platform 1 did not exist at that time because of the construction site.

Responding to an inquiry, Deutsche Bahn now says on that improvements have been made and that the cameras have been installed on the platform for quite some time: "The cameras on Platform 1 in Bonn's main station were already installed before carnival", said a railway spokesman. Shortly afterwards, the installation on Platform 2 was completed. The video recordings are used exclusively by the federal police for investigations into criminal offenses, the Deutsche Bahn spokesman emphasized.

Many people at the train station have not even taken note of the cameras. "I haven't noticed them yet," says a 69-year-old, "but I think it's good that they're here," he emphasizes. "I hope they're switched on." The man from Bonn remembers the incident in 2012 when the bomb on Track 1 didn't explode only because of a design flaw. "All they had then was the camera footage from the McDonalds."

A 68-year-old has not noticed the cameras on Track 1 either. But they certainly do not bother the woman from Bonn, who is regularly at the main train station. "It's for security," she says.

The federal police did not want to provide more specific information about the cameras. The press office pointed out that the cameras at the station are the property of Deutsche Bahn.

When asked whether the cameras could already help in police investigations, the Federal Police Directorate did not answer. When asked how long the video data is stored, the Directorate pointed out that "within the framework of the legal basis [...] personal data is stored for up to 30 days". If these recordings are needed to avert a current danger or to prosecute a crime or any type of offense, they could be stored for longer.

360-degree cameras

Video recordings stored for up to one month

The German Federal Police are allowed to use automatic image acquisition and image recording devices at railway stations. They are authorized to do so in accordance with the provisions of the Federal Police Act. Deutsche Bahn AG has entered into a contract of use with the Federal Police. Deutsche Bahn transfers the video recordings to a file which is made available to the federal police for their exclusive use. The Federal Police Act stipulates that the use of the cameras must be recognizable. An attempted bomb attack in the summer of 2006 prompted legislators to extend the storage period for video recordings to up to one month.

(Orig. text: Thomas Leurs, Translation: Carol Kloeppel)