Record number of incidents with 'disturbed' persons in Netherlands

Police
Police. (Photo: Politie)

The police responded to a record number of 83,501 incidents involving "disturbed" persons last year, an increase of 12 percent compared to 2016. Between 2013 and 2016 the number of incidents involving disturbed persons increased by nearly 60 percent, according to figures the police released on Tuesday.

Noord-Nederland received the most reports of incidents involving someone showing disturbed behavior with 13,806. Den Haag followed with 10,764, and then Noord-Nederland with 9,862.  

The police emphasize that these figures don't say anything about the number of disturbed people in the Netherlands. Not all people with disturbed behavior come into contact with the police. And one person can be responsible for multiple responses. 

Still the police call the increasing trend in incidents "striking and worrisome". The impression is that not only the number, but also the severity of incidents is on the rise, the police said. The police asked the Dutch institute for public health and environment RIVM to investigate the nature and scope of this problem. 

According to Amsterdam police chief Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, who is in charge of the 'disturbed persons' portfolio at the National Police, too little is being done to prevent disturbed persons spiraling and situations getting out of control. "Prevention and early signaling must be higher on the agenda and given priority", he said. "Just like the police, professionals in healthcare and support should be available 24/7 in districts and neighborhoods. Together with community officers they can pick up worrying signals early and provide vulnerable people with appropriate care and support."

DISTURBED INDIVIDUALS AND DUTCH POLICING

Only about 30 percent of people police call "disturbed" actually have a mental disorder making the term "disturbed" a somewhat controversial choice, researcher Bauke Koekkoek of health service GGZ Nederland said early last year. It includes a wide range of people that mainly accounts to anyone acting somewhat abnormally ever since a crime statistics reporting change in 2011. Some of those considered to be disturbed include drug addicts, elderly people with dementia, people suffering from a sudden shock or trauma, and those with mental disabilities.

Last December, police chief Erik Akerboom said he wanted a mental health expert on call in every Dutch neighborhood, because of the increasing cases police are required to respond when a mentally troubled person is in distress. "In prevention, the strings seem to be unraveling and institutions have been reduced. It would be good if there was a mental health worker in every district, because we are that now", he told AD, adding that the national government needs to better fund mental health care.

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