After the cameras' introduction in 2006, local resident Alja Rieckhof had complained that they were infringing on her private life.
A series of lower court rulings imposed restrictions on the use of surveillance cameras, such as not allowing them to film Rieckhof's residence, which Hamburg police viewed as so restrictive that they decided to turn the cameras off completely in 2011.
The federal court ruling hinged on whether the police's duty to prevent crime outweighed the privacy interests of residents and passersby – which the court ruled it did.
Rieckhof had argued that more police officers on the street would be a better deterrent than video cameras.
But the exact use of the cameras in the future remains unclear. Although Hamburg's state government praised the ruling, many restrictions imposed by lower courts remain in force, and authorities said the 12 cameras will only be used on an “ad-hoc” basis for the time being.
Police have previously said video that doesn't capture a crime is only stored for 30 days before being deleted.
Rieckhof said she was disappointed with the ruling but happy that she had brought the topic to national attention.
“I must be content with what we have already achieved,” she said.