When launching a nationwide manhunt for a gunman who rampaged through Copenhagen this weekend, Danish police had a weapon often decried by civil-rights activists: a dense network of street and taxi surveillance cameras.
Danish authorities said the cameras allowed them to quickly piece together the 14-hour path of the suspect shooter through Denmark’s capital cityfrom his first assault on a downtown cafe to a second attack against a synagogueand eventually locate him near a Copenhagen train station where he was killed by police.
While police cameras are largely limited to Stroget, a popular tourist shopping street in central Copenhagen, private banks, residential buildings and shops have largely embraced video surveillance, forming an informal footage-gathering network that can be mobilized in the event of a security crisis.
Video surveillance is an integral part of the Copenhagen transportation system and helped police quickly trace the gunman after a tip off by a taxi driver, said Magnus Ranstorp, a counterterrorism expert at the Swedish National Defence College.
The alleged assailant who killed one man and wounded three police officers at the cafe, was captured making phone calls by video cameras placed outside a school. Police rushed to the area and found a suspected getaway vehicle abandoned on a nearby street.
A number of photos and a detailed description of the suspect were released about four hours after the initial assault. That prompted more than 125 people to call in with tips and observations, many of which were useful in the manhunt, police said.
In Copenhagen, the suspect boarded a cab after finishing his phone calls. Taxi surveillance footage showed him taking a 20-minute ride to reach an address in the Norrebro district, in the northern part of Copenhagen.
Tracking the suspect hours later, police said the man, who is believed to have acted alone and was known to the Danish security and intelligence service before the attack, stayed inside an apartment at the Norrebro address for about 20 minutes before leaving.
Shortly after midnight, a second shooting was reported outside a synagogue in downtown Copenhagen, leaving a 37-year-old guard dead outside a bat mitzvah celebration, and two police officers wounded. The suspect fled the scene on foot.
Hours later, he returned to the address in Norrebro where police had set up watch late in the evening after scrutinizing video footage from the area. Officers spotted the suspect and confronted him on a street near the train station, killing him after he fired at them.
Police are continuing to review hours of video footage to retrace the suspect’s steps and fill in the gaps of his overnight rampage, said Jorgen Skov, head of the Copenhagen police.
Denmark’s use of surveillance-camera footage to track the movements of the suspect appears to have been more efficient than in the wake of past attacks.
In the aftermath of the April 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation used private photographs and video-surveillance footage around the scene to develop the theory that two suspects had worked in concert to set the bombs. Three days after the attack, the FBI released images of two alleged attackerslater identified as Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to the public to help identify them.
Even in London, which has one of the world’s densest collection of surveillance cameras, the investigation following the 2005 bombings of London’s transport system took time and manpower. More than 100 police immediately began analyzing thousands of hours of footage from the attacks, working backward to establish the timeline and find the perpetrators. But it wasn’t until four days later that footage was found showing the four alleged attackers walking together at Kings Cross, according to a transcript of an investigative hearing.
The footage, analyzed over more than 18 months, proved to be powerful evidence however. It helped Scotland Yard to track back to a reconnaissance mission the alleged attackers made through London’s transport system more than a week before the attacks, plotting their movements including the purchase in Leeds of more than a dozen ice bags to help stabilize their bombs on the trip to London, investigators said.