After Görlitz, the police now also want to set up systems for real-time recognition of facial images in Zittau. This system is unprecedented in Germany.
The Görlitz police department wants to continue using its “Person Identification System” (Peris) based on facial recognition and even expand it. This was confirmed by a spokesperson at the request of “nd”. Previously, the Saxon Left Party MP Jule Nagel had also inquired in two parliamentary questions about the possible continuation in Upper Lusatia. In the answers, the Ministry of the Interior writes that the system could continue to be operated even after the expiry of a corresponding regulation in the police law.
The “Peris” is the only video surveillance system in Germany that enables real-time recognition of facial images. A special commission “Argus” has been using it to pursue crimes in the area of property crime on the German-Polish border since 2019. By comparing the data with police databases, persons and vehicles that are wanted or under surveillance can be detected. So far, however, only one hit with faces and two hits with licence plates have been obtained in this way.
In Görlitz, the “Peris” consists of ten camera columns at intersections as well as at border crossings to Poland. In addition, two mobile cameras are used in police vehicles. The system was supposed to cost €5 million, according to the state government half of which has already “flowed out”.
Now seven camera columns are to be erected in Zittau as well as “near the border” on the federal road 178. Constructional development work and “procurement measures” have been arranged, the spokesperson said. In addition, two mobile “Peris” systems would be purchased for Zittau.
As a legal basis for the “Peris”, the state government had amended paragraph 59 of the Saxon Police Enforcement Service Act. This allows the police to counter serious cross-border crime with the “use of technical means”. The legal norm serves law enforcement and is only valid this year.
After an evaluation, Saxony’s Interior Minister Armin Schuster (Christian Democratic Union, CDU) had declared in the cabinet that the technology would no longer be used. The “technical and personnel costs” were too high, and in addition, “the technical success in practice has not been achieved”. The expiring legal norm would therefore not be extended.
The police did not give any reasons for their turnaround to “nd”. However, they state a different purpose for the video surveillance, which is used “primarily for the prevention of criminal prosecution”. In this way, perpetrators are “deterred from committing crimes”.
This “danger prevention” is possible according to paragraph 57 of the police law. However, the resulting video footage should subsequently also be used for prosecution, the spokesperson said.
“The ever-increasing number of camera columns continues to be an expensive toy,” said Mirko Schultze, a Left Party member of the state parliament, criticising the continuation of the “Peris” in Upper Lusatia. The installations were probably intended to calm the population, the spokesman for local politics and population protection told “nd”.
Published in German in „nd“.
Image: Saxonian Police.