Zeeland has been assigned a port police force to combat drug smuggling via the province’s ports but more manpower is needed, local police have said.
A team of 25 detectives, police officers and intelligence analysts will be monitoring the ports of Vlissingen, Borsele, Terneuzen and Moerdijk, broadcaster Omroep Zeeland reported.
Zeeland had long petitioned the government for a port police force of its own. While local authorities are happy with the new team, at least double the number of officials is needed to combat drug crime effectively in the ports, district police chief Joost Manusama told the broadcaster.
The government earmarked an extra €4 million to combat crime in ports, of which €1.2 million has been allocated to the port police. The rest of the money will go to more camera surveillance, higher security gates, biometric entryway systems and training to arm port workers against criminal influence.
“We had hoped for more than double the money from The Hague to form a bigger team,” Manusama told the broadcaster. “We calculated that we need a team of at least 50 to 55 people. But we have made a good start and we have now put our team of 25 to work,” he said.
The team will be focusing in particular on intercepting stowaways who are climbing into containers to make their way into Britain illegally and youngsters brought in by drugs gangs to enter the containers to remove drugs.
Drug criminality is a growing problem in Zeeland ports, and in Vlissingen in particular. On Thursday a haul of 1,500 kilos of cocaine, the biggest in the province this year, was intercepted while in May, customs investigators found over 700 kilos of cocaine hidden among a shipment of bananas.
So far this year some 31 youngsters were arrested and 4,500 kilos of cocaine discovered at Vlissingen port alone.
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