Dortmund Goes High-Tech: Football Club Nabs Neo-Nazi with Help of New Camera

Several German football teams have a problem with hooliganism among their fans. Now, league champion Borussia Dortmund has installed a new, high-tech surveillance system to combat the problem -- and nabbed a neo-Nazi on the season's opening day.

Photo Gallery: The High-Tech Battle against Hooliganism Photos
DPA

It is no secret that violence and hooliganism is a part of soccer in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. Right-wing extremism likewise frequently makes an appearance in stadiums across the continent.

But this off-season, reigning German league champion Borussia Dortmund decided to take even greater steps to address the problem. The club, located in a city that has spent years battling a problem with right-wing extremists, invested €250,000 ($310,000) in extremely high-resolution surveillance cameras that can take close-ups of violent fans from up to 60 meters (200 feet) away. And it didn't take long for the new system to prove its value. During the team's home opener against Werder Bremen over the weekend, a fan unfurled a banner in support of a recently banned neo-Nazi group. Images taken of the scene allowed authorities to quickly identify the man and he now faces potential legal proceedings for supporting a banned extremist group.

"Our new camera is worth every penny," said Borussia President Hans-Joachim Watzke. In a statement on the team's website, Watzke said that, when it comes to racism "we pursue a zero-tolerance policy and will dry out this swamp."

The incident in question involved a 27-year-old Dortmund local displaying a banner reading "Solidarity with the NWDO," a reference to the neo-Nazi group Dortmund National Resistance, which was among a trio of right-wing extremist groups targeted by police last week and subsequently banned. The raids were carried out as the groups were busy mobilizing supporters for marches on Sept. 1 to mark the anniversary of the Nazi invasion of Poland.

Concerted Effort against Racism

While German stadiums have long been outfitted with video surveillance, the new cameras installed by Dortmund are able to provide law enforcement officers with detailed photos in sharp focus from a great distance. The technology enables rapid identification, particularly in the case of offenders already known to the police, as was the case with the neo-Nazi nabbed over the weekend. The cameras also keep all of the stands under permanent surveillance, allowing several officials to have access to the images they need at any one time. Images of suspects can also be sent to the mobile phones of officers in the stands as needed.

Senior Borussia official Christian Hockenjos told German tabloid Bild earlier this month that the team was finally convinced to invest in the technology following a match last October against Dynamo Dresden. During the match, fans set off fireworks in the stands and the referee was forced to suspend play three separate times during the game. Such incidents have been a frequent problem at football matches in Germany in recent years.

Dortmund has long had one of the most active neo-Nazi scenes in western Germany. Recently, the city has begun to make a concerted effort to combat right-wing extremism and launched a support group for victims of neo-Nazi violence last autumn. Like many football clubs in Germany, Borussia Dortmund has had a problem with right-wing fans. Indeed, a group calling itself the Borussenfront was one of the most notorious extremist fan groups in the country in the 1980s, though it has since largely disappeared.

The team this week has once again emphasized its intolerance of right-wing extremism. "Borussia Dortmund sharply condemns all forms of right-wing radicalism and racism and together with the police will use all methods at its disposal to take action against those behind the current incident and other similar incidents," read a statement posted on the team's website.

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