Italian police vow to catch speed camera-destroying vigilante Fleximan

Fleximan is a vigilante and incipient folk hero that has so far destroyed 15 speed cameras in Italy. The authorities have a special police task force and four different prosecutors' offices on the suspect's tail, reports the BBC. The net is closing in! One man is under arrest, but it's apparently just a copycat.

Photos of his actions then spread on social media, along with the nickname taken from the Italian word for angle grinder, flessibile – the tool he has mostly used to destroy the cameras. … What is not clear is whether Fleximan is one man or two, or perhaps he has become a number of copycat vandals. Police in the north-west Piedmont region say they have charged a 50-year-old suspect, but most of the attacks have taken place in the Veneto area of the north-east.

Italy has 11,000 speed cameras, more than the 7,700 in surveillance-happy Britain. Germany, with 4,400 cameras, is a distant third. Italian authorities are certain that the huge number of cameras will solve the nation's road death problem; the continued road death problem only make them more certain of the need for even more cameras. Fleximan begs to differ.

So much so that a street artist in Padua called Evyrein has dedicated his latest work to Fleximan. His graffiti depicts Uma Thurman's character from Kill Bill, holding a sword in one hand and a cut-up speed camera in the other.

The idea that surveillance (forensic knowledge of other people's activities) will solve problems through accountability is one the biggest cultural obsessions of this and the last century. The gap between the assumption of what it will do (enforce procedure) and the reality of what it does (expose policy) is nearly incomprehensible.

Previously: California governor Gavin Newsom signs law allowing traffic cameras to issue automatic fines