Molenbeek Mayor turned down extra cops

The Interior Minister in Belgium’s caretaker government Annemie Turtelboom (Flemish liberal, bottom photo) has accused the Mayor of the Brussels municipality of Sint-Jans Molenbeek Philippe Moureaux (Francophone socialist, top photo) of not telling the truth in a newspaper interview published on Friday. In the interview that was given in response to mounting concerns about street crime and other criminal activity in parts of Molenbeek, Mr Moureaux tried to minimalise the extent of the problem.

The Mayor also said that the Brussels West police service that covers Molenbeek is understaffed. As well as being Mayor of Molenbeek, Mr Moureaux is also Chairman of the Brussels West Police Board.

In an interview published in Saturday’s edition of the daily ‘De Morgen’ Ms Turtelboom says that the Interior Ministry has offered to help Molenbeek tackle its crime problem on several occasions by making officers from the Federal Police Service available. However, this has always been turned down by Mr Moureaux.

"We have repeatedly offered to allow the Maritime Police to patrol in the area near to the canal, but Molenbeek has not taken up the offer”, Ms Turtelboom told VRT Radio 1.

"After last year’s riots we created a reserve force of 50 Federal Police officers that can be deployed as reinforcements in the six Brussels police zones.”

“Some municipalities use them a lot. However, Molenbeek has hardly ever done so.”

The Interior Minister says that she can’t force Mr Moureaux to accept help.

"The police is organised in such away that local problems should first be dealt with by the local Mayor. If a municipality asks for help we will give help. However, they have to ask for help in the first place."

Advertising agency

The debate on crime in Molenbeek came to the fore again this week after an advertising agency announced that it was to quit the West Brussels municipality because of the high levels of crime there.

Numerous female employees of the agency have had their handbags snatched, while others suffered a torrent of sexually aggressive verbal abuse.

One male employee was even taken hostage in his own car and forced to withdraw a large sum of money from several cash points.