Italy searches for speed trap terror Fleximan

Flexible man is back. Or rather men. Or maybe women. Nobody knows for sure. In any case, Italy, Europe’s number one speed trap country, now has a few fewer speed cameras: Four orange boxes with cameras were unloaded on the streets of the small northern Italian town of Buccinasco in a single night.

What would have been a small news for a local newspaper has now gained a national dimension: Italy is looking for Fleximan, which is called its most important intermediary.

This issue started last year. Also near the northern city of Rovigo, the first speed camera pole was cut using a cutting machine. Craftsman German and Italian: flexibly. Since then, there have been dozens of cases of such criminal damage to property. Sometimes the police found short confession letters such as “Fleximan sta arrivando” (“Fleximan is coming”). Traces of destruction now stretch from South Tyrol to Calabria, so it’s clear: Fleximan is more than one. Half a dozen prosecutors’ offices are currently busy with this.

Many motorists follow the subject with a certain basic sympathy. The feeling of being bullied and ostracized by the authorities is also common in Italy. Nowhere in Europe are there as many speed traps as here: more than 11,000. For comparison: there are 4,700 in Germany. The speed limit is generally 90 outside cities, 110 on motorways, and 130 on highways. Enforcement is relatively strict. Many holidaymakers also know this because they receive mail from the Italian police. However, the number of deaths in traffic is higher than in other places. In 2022 there were almost 3,200.

It is undisputed that some communities make good money with “Autovelox”, which is the name given to speed traps in Italian. Consumer protection organization Codacons has determined that the country’s 20 largest cities will generate more than €75 million in revenue in 2022, based on figures from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The tourist metropolis of Florence alone has recorded more than 23 million. For the town of Cavallino, deep in the south, on state route 16, buying a camera was also worthwhile: revenues rose from zero to almost three million in a year.

So it’s no surprise that Fleximan has been called the “Robin Hood of drivers” by some. There’s even graffiti now: a figure from Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” with a sword in one hand and a cutout speed camera in the other. However, there are also opposing voices, such as journalist Paola di Caro from the famous newspaper “Corriere della Sera”, whose 18-year-old son is dragged to death. He wrote: “I want Fleximan to feel for one day what I felt when I left flowers at the place where my son was killed.”

Many experts are also outraged by the applause given to criminal acts. Urban planner Matto Dondé told La Repubblica newspaper: “Wherever speed cameras are used, the number of deaths and injuries is much lower. This is the only certain fact. Everything else is opinion.”

Police and prosecutors think the same way. Still, no progress has been made in the search: Footage from security cameras usually only shows black hooded figures at night. If you are arrested, you could face heavy fines and up to three years in prison.

The issue has now turned into a political issue. Particularly right-wing populist Transport Minister Matteo Salvini has made a name for himself as a defender of so-called exploited drivers. The leader of the smaller government party, Lega, announced a decree next month that will limit the number of speed traps. “Putting them on two-lane roads overnight to make money is just another tax.”

Salvini made it clear that he generally did not think much of a 50 km/h speed limit on wide roads. “Repubblica” therefore cynically elevated him to the status of a kind of pliant man of Italian politics. But Fleximan found imitators in other ways, too. Also in the northern city of Brescia, an unidentified person began removing sill posts (Italian: dosso) from streets in quiet traffic areas. He was immediately given a name: Dossoman.

(APA/dpa)

Source: Vienna

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