Antwerp Alderman says “The war on drugs isn’t working”

The Antwerp Alderman Tom Meeuws (socialist) has told VRT News that local authorities and Mayors should be given greater means to enable them to tackle crime in their areas. Mr Meeuws believes that it is essential that cooperation between the local, regional and federal authorities is improved if the issue of crime is to be tackled effectively. 

Drug-related violence has resurfaced again in Antwerp this summer. Barely a day goes by without a report of a shooting or an explosion that is possibly drug related. The lastest incident was on Friday night in Antwerp’s North District.  

In a newspaper interview published in Saturday’s editions of the Mediahuis publishing group’s newspapers, Mr Meeus said “The war on drugs isn’t working and we all know that”. Mr Meeuws is the Antwerp Alderman responsible for social affairs and social cohesion. He went on to say that currently local authorities do not have the means to enable them to effectively tackle crime.

"Entire districts such as Antwerp North and Borgerhout are being dragged into and undermined by crime and families too are being sucked in. Children no longer go to school because they see from a young age that there is a lot of money to be made from drug dealing, human trafficking and slum landlording”.

"I support the Mayor 100%, but if there is one point of criticism that I do have it’s about his use of belligerent language. The use of this kind of language does not work, so drop it”.

But what would work? Mr Meeuws calls for Mayors and local authorities to be given greater means to tackle crime at the grassroots. Earlier this week the Mayor of Antwerp Bart De Wever (Flemish nationalist) closed three businesses that were linked to previous drug-related attacks. However, Mr Meeuw says that as things stand there is no decent legal framework for this kind of action to be taken. 

Cross-party cooperation

The Flemish socialist hopes that during the coming weeks politicians from all parties will cooperate to extend the scope of the Administrative Enforce Act. This would enable local authorities such as Antwerp to take preventative measures. The city authorities in Antwerp have long been in favour of this. However, the Flemish greens and the Francophone parties in the federal coalition have always put on the brakes.

Mr Meeuws says that any changes made to the Administrative Enforce Act should make it possible for local authorities to act when figures known to be from the criminal underworld become involved in legitimate businesses, for example in order to launder some of their ill-gotten gains.

"If the Mayor received information that this was the case from the Local Police or in this case it would be mainly from the Federal Police, he would be able to prevent the business from opening. This is what they call an ‘integrity judgement’".

"It would also create greater calm within the community. Currently the public often contact the city authorities about certain types of businesses such as car washes and restaurants where there are never any customers and are clearly being used as a cover. However, as things stand there is no legal framework to address this”.

Mr Meeuws believes that cooperation between the various levels of government is of the essence. This is also true with regard to the various enforcement agencies (local and federal police and the Customs Service). Here there can sometimes be friction. Mr Meeuws says that while the local police in Antwerp is well-resourced the same is not true of the Federal Police Service. Both police services and the Customs need to cooperate to the full

"Because criminal also cooperate with each other from small-scale street dealers to big money white collar criminals”. 

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