Netherlands becoming a narco-state, warn Dutch police

Officers say many victims do not report incidents and organised gangs have a free rein

The Netherlands is starting to resemble a narco-state with the police unable to combat the emergence of a parallel criminal economy, a report from the Dutch police association has warned.

Official figures suggest crime is on a downward trend but officers say many victims have stopped reporting incidents while organised crime syndicates have been given a free rein.

“Only one in nine criminal groups can be tackled with the current people and resources,” the report given to the De Telegraaf newspaper says. “Detectives see that small criminals develop into wealthy entrepreneurs who establish themselves in the hospitality industry, housing market, middle class, travel agencies.”

The paper from the Dutch police union, based on interviews with 400 detectives, adds: “The Netherlands fulfils many characteristics of a narco-state. Detectives see a parallel economy emerge.”

Critics of the Dutch gedoogbeleid (tolerance policy) towards the sale of cannabis in coffee shops, and the legal status of prostitution in the country, claim the Netherlands has been inadvertently promoted as a major hub for the trafficking of drugs and people.

A large majority of ecstasy taken in Europe and the US comes from labs in the south of the country, which are increasingly run by Moroccan gangs involved in the production of cannabis. Half of the €5.7bn a year of cocaine taken in Europe comes through the port of Rotterdam, according to Europol.

The Dutch police association wants an extra 2,000 officers to be recruited, and its hard-hitting claim about the rise of organised crime will be seen by critics as an attempt to squeeze more money from central government.

However, the findings chime with a leaked report drafted earlier this year by the office of the public prosecutor for the Dutch cabinet.

While there has been a 25% drop in the number of recorded crimes over the past nine years, to below 1m, the paper reported that 3.5m crimes go unregistered every year. The report also raised fears that the authorities were being put at “an insurmountable disadvantage”.

The mayor of Amsterdam, its local police force and the Dutch capital’s public prosecutor also publicly warned this month of a growth in organised crime and a shift towards more invisible forms of crime embedded in neighbourhoods and often out of the control and sight of the authorities.

Amsterdam’s police chief, Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, claimed his force was spending 60% to 70% of its time attempting to combat gang-related hit-jobs.

Young men were willing to carry out assassinations for as little as €3,000, he said in an interview this month. “In the 80s and 90s, professional hitmen from abroad came here for €50,000,” said Aalbersberg. “In recent years we see young boys from Amsterdam.”

With the police struggling to deal with the most high-profile crimes, it is claimed that officers are missing many others.

The Dutch police’s union’s report, published on Tuesday, warns that criminals who target the elderly and vulnerable are often going unpunished, with only an estimated 20% of such crimes reported to the police.

“The number of crimes against vulnerable people has increased due to the ageing population and more cutbacks in care,” the report says. “In particular, the theft, fraud and violence against the elderly and vulnerable people has increased enormously and insufficient attention is paid to this.”

The Dutch minister for justice and security, Ferd Grapperhaus, acknowledged he had received the police report warning of a “lack of capacity for the combat against organised crime”. He said: “It is a signal that we must take seriously. This government recognises that there is a need for investment in the police force.

“Therefore we are investing extra money in the coming years: an average of €267m every year. We also have fund for combating organised crime (€100m).

“However, the justice minister stresses that the Dutch police, together with the public prosecutor, are achieving effective results in the prosecution of drugs-related crime. Therefore the term ‘narco-state’ is not a qualification I would use.”


Daniel Boffey in Brussels

The GuardianTramp

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