Drug gangs caught recruiting runners from Rotterdam schools

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Drug gangs recruited teenagers from schools and youth institutions in Rotterdam on a large scale, the Public Prosecutor announced on Tuesday. The teenagers were used as "runners', delivering drugs from Rotterdam to various addresses in Belgium. Dozens of teenagers from Rotterdam-Zuid have been arrested in Belgium, NOS reports

The kids involved are 16 or 17 years old. They mostly come from socially disadvantaged environments in Rotterdam-Zuid. There's no sign that ethnicity plays a role for the recruiters, though many of the teenagers involved have been in contact with the police before for offenses such as muggings or brawls. 

Dozens of Rotterdam teenagers have been caught delivering drugs on the streets or to homes in Belgium. The drugs were provided by criminal organizations from Rotterdam-Zuid. Underage drug dealers can't be convicted in Belgium, because the country doesn't have a juvenile criminal law system. The Belgian investigators can hold them in custody for up to 65 days in the interests of the investigation, however. And the teenagers can be prosecuted when they return to the Netherlands. A number of teens already faced prosecution in the Netherlands. Some were sentenced to juvenile detention, others were given community service, according to the broadcaster.

The Public Prosecutor first got wind of this case in 2015, when concerned parents reported their son as missing. He was found in custody in Belgium for drug trafficking. In another Rotterdam investigation, a phone was confiscated that contained information about the recruitment practices. Three recruiters were arrested to date. Two of them will appear in court for a so-called pro-forma hearing next week.

The Public Prosecutor does not yet have a complete picture on the criminal organizations that use teenagers as drug runners, according to NOS. Several investigations are ongoing.