“Long-term spending needed to combat criminal undermining”: plan

The government needs to invest an €250 million a year in combating undermining activities by drugs gangs, including the recruitment of youngsters in deprived areas, experts have said.

Apart from more money to monitor ports and the production of drugs in the border regions, some €50 million a year should go to local councils to train 1,000 extra police officers and investigators whose presence on the ground will do much combat drugs crime, the researchers said.

“We in the Netherlands have underestimated how easy it is to draw youngsters into the criminal circuit,” Peter Noordanus, former Tilburg mayor and one of the authors of Naar een pact voor de rechtstaat 0.2 (Towards a rule of law pact 0.2) told Trouw.

Noordanus said local councils have a crucial role to play in promoting safety, for instance by engaging young people through social work initiatives so they will leave the criminal environment or are not tempted to enter it. Many local councils do not have the money or manpower to do this, Noordanus said.

Police chiefs in Amsterdam and Rotterdam have long asked for a more local “neighbourhood-based” police presence and many more police investigators to combat what they called “an Italian-style culture of violence”.

“Police investigators are doing well nationally but there is too little capacity locally to tackle smaller drugs criminality which can lead youngsters on to more serious criminal activities,” professor of public administration and fellow author Pieter Tops said.

“Think of a cannabis growing operation. It may not matter much to police but it matters locally because there is a criminal network surrounding it that has its tentacles in that neighbourhood.”

But unless the investments do not form a long-term part of the budget, the authorities will be fighting a losing battle, Noordanus said.

The government has already allocated a total of €700 million to combat the recruitment of youngsters by criminal gangs in the next few years.

The call for extra money is gaining in urgency as the elections approach, a spokesman for caretaker justice minister Dilan Yeşilgöz said, adding that political discussion on the matter is ongoing despite the caretaker status of the government so the work can continue.

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