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Safety inMaastricht

Conclusions, integrity, and safety

Maastricht has a number of vulnerable neighbourhoods that require extra attention in view of the pressure imposed on their social cohesion. The residents do not have the resilience required to stand up against nuisance and subversive criminality in their neighbourhood. Such neighbourhoods are often home to persons with debts or social problems. These neighbourhoods become breeding grounds for drug trafficking and nuisance, as well as for the associated criminality and intimidation practices. The residents of neighbourhoods in which criminality and deviant behaviour gain the upper hand lose confidence in the authorities. Improving the perception of security in Maastricht requires the adequate approach to tackling subversive and other forms of crime and nuisance in the neighbourhood needed to provide for an improvement in the collective resilience of the neighbourhoods.

Subversive criminality can only be called to a halt when officials at the political and administrative and policy-setting levels fully recognize and appreciate that this is a major threat that needs to be tackled with all possible resources. This also requires a willingness to invest in the fight against subversive practices and to experiment with unorthodox methods, self-evidently within the limits of the rule of law. This fight against subversive crime also, from a practical point of view, requires the authorities to be prepared, much more than is currently the case, to cooperate with each other, understand each other, and share information with each other.17

The fight against subversive crime is a lengthy process that also requires investments in social support. Organized crime is embedded at a local level and many offenders also have their roots at a local level. Although organized/subversive crime is not generally immediately visible outside the area in which it takes place, the residents of the relevant neighbourhoods are often aware of what is going on. An ethnographic survey conducted in a Maastricht neighbourhood in 2014 revealed that residents are often aware that illegal activities are being carried out and frequently know who carries out or organizes them. Some of the local residents make use — or have to make use — of this, which other residents find offensive.18

Moreover, the vulnerable local residents are the very residents who are approached or misused by criminals and become either wittingly or unwittingly involved in organized crime. These vulnerable residents are then confronted with the consequences of their involvement — such as eviction, withdrawal of benefits, or increased debts — while the criminals who involved them usually do not get prosecuted. Criminals increasingly take over the role of the authorities in the neighbourhood. Criminals, for example, offer protection from nuisance by the use of intimidation or violence, or act as illegal money lenders to residents with debts. The local residents then become wittingly or unwittingly dependent on criminals.

Radicalization/polarization will, in conclusion, remain high on the agenda in the coming years. The General Intelligence and Security Service’s national threat assessment remains at an unchanged high level (level 4 on a scale of 5). The jihadist threat continues to form the main terrorist threat in the Netherlands (Terrorist Threat Assessment Netherlands, March 2018). It will be necessary, in view of the urgency of the integral approach and the jihadist movement’s current transition phase, to make the extra efforts in prevention, deradicalization and reintegration that are required to adopt a proactive approach to this changing playing field. A joint approach based on safety, care, education, and care will be adopted in the coming years. Within this context it will be necessary to make investments in:

  • the reinforcement of the preventive radicalization policy;
  • the reinforcement of the local information position;
  • the integration and sustainabilization of knowledge and expertise at our internal and external partners;
  • the further development of the local Maastricht-Heuvelland Safety Partnership’s casuistry consultations;
  • the development of a polarization and left/right extremism plan of approach.