'Fleximan': Italy's anti-speed camera vigilante splits public opinion

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'Fleximan': Italy's anti-speed camera vigilante splits public opinion
A car drives past a new speed camera in June 2019. Photo by XAVIER LEOTY / AFP

A prolific saboteur who has destroyed over a dozen speed cameras across northern Italy has sparked a nationwide debate, with some hailing him as a hero and others condemning him as a "criminal" risking lives.


Cars – and driving fast – are a long-standing passion in Italy, home to Lamborghini, Maserati, Ducati and Ferrari, as well as the Fiat 500, which is not so speedy but as Italian as pasta.

But these days, as in many other countries, speed cameras are a part of the driving experience – and Fleximan's battle to take them down has touched a nerve.

Police on Thursday arrested a man in his 50s for allegedly destroying two speed cameras near the northern border with Switzerland in November.

But they admitted he is not the 'Fleximan' who has for months been operating across the north of Italy, from Veneto to Piedmont and Lombardy, vandalising dozens of cameras.

Named after the popular "Flex" brand of tools, the saboteur has been caught on camera, hooded and sometimes with an accomplice, cutting down speed cameras with a circular saw.

A police spokesperson told AFP they were working "night and day" to find the culprit.

READ ALSO: 'Fleximan': Hunt continues for Italy's anti-speed camera vigilante

In the meantime, Fleximan has developed a cult following on social media, hailed by those who see speed cameras as a state-sponsored "racket" to raise funds.

Merchandise depicting the saboteur as a caped crusader is on sale online.

And in Padua, a mural has emerged portraying the activist as the yellow-clad assassin played by Uma Thurman in the Quentin Tarantino movie Kill Bill, holding a sword in one hand and a speed camera in the other.

But the families of road traffic victims have condemned the glorification of the saboteur, while critics point out that thousands of people die each year on Italy's roads.


Local councillors are torn between those who "refuse to let the criminals win" and those who tacitly seem to support the action.

"I was already unconvinced and I decided not to replace (them)", said Marco Schiesaro, mayor of Cadoneghe in Veneto, of the speed cameras destroyed in his area.

Italy's right-wing newspaper Libero, which is close to Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's government, has described the sabotage as an act of "resistance" against "bureaucrats and moralists", without explicitly condoning it.

But newspaper Corriere della Sera said that while "Robin Hood stole from the rich to give to the poor, Fleximan steals lives".

In 2022, 3,159 people died on Italy's roads, according to the European Commission; that's 53 deaths per one million inhabitants – seven above an average of 46 across the 27-nation bloc.

Some 15 percent of road accidents are caused by driver distraction, followed by failure to respect traffic lights (13.7 percent) and speed (9.3 percent), according to national statistics agency Istat.


The debate comes after a row broke out between Matteo Salvini, Italy's deputy prime minister and transport minister, and Bologna after the city's left-wing authorities imposed a speed limit of 30 kilometres (18.6 miles) per hour.

Salvini dismissed the new limit as an "ideological choice" to help residents hear the "chirping of birds" better.

Road safety association Asaps noted in response that a pedestrian struck at 30 kilometres per hour has between 80 and 90 percent more chances of survival than at 50 kilometres per hour.

Note: This report was amended on January 28th to state that 30 kilometres per hour is in fact equal to 18.6 miles per hour.


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andy 2024/01/28 10:56
30 kilometres per hour is 18.64 mile per hour not 48 mph
Clyde Bentley 2024/01/26 19:47
30 kilometers per hour is only 18.6 miles per hour, not 48
Judith R Babarsky 2024/01/26 18:48
30 kilometers per hour is not equivalent to 48 miles per hour -- more like 18 miles per hour!! Whoever wrote the article did the math backwards as 48 miles per hour IS equivalent to 30 kilometers per hour!
Paul 2024/01/26 17:45
Local where is my comment ? I said we need him back here when he is finished!!!

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