Crime pays too easily in Amsterdam, ombudsman says
The amount of illegal money in Amsterdam, and the undermining crime that comes with it, has reached a critical point, according to Amsterdam Ombudsman Arre Zuurmond. "It is too easy to earn money with crime. The government is intolerably absent, making the criminal career path too attractive to young people", Zuurmond said, Het Parool reports
Zuurmond is getting more and more signals of undermining crime in the Dutch capital, both in his office and on the street. "When I investigate the bustle of the city around the Leidseplein, I hear it all the time: in buildings around the square, a group of people have the power that has no interest improving the neighborhood. In the meantime I hear from the Public Prosecution Service that 90 percent of acquisitions in the catering industry are finances with a private loan."
"I recently had a woman here [in the office], she was quite old. She said she was struggling with high debts and that she therefore considered accepting an offer she had received: turning one room of her house into a cannabis plantation. This kind of people, vulnerable people who are at the edge of society and who are being abused by serious criminals, are increasingly in front of me", the Ombudsman said, according to the newspaper.
The ombudsman recently looked into bankruptcy fraud. Someone sets up a company with a high number of paid employees on paper. The business struggles and bankruptcy is filed. The employees report to benefits agency UWV and get unemployment benefits, the largest part of which goes to the founder of the suspicious company. "Our investigation led to an Amsterdam address of less than 40 square meters, where 75 companies are registered. Also a showroom! But while we were still busy, we got a warning from a government agency that we took very seriously: stop this investigation, because we can not guarantee your safety", Zuurmond said.
Other examples mentioned by Zuurmond include criminal Albanians living illegally in Amsterdam, homes that have multiple residents but none on paper, taxi drivers driving around uninsured, and social housing rented out on Airbnb. "A thousand couples in Amsterdam who actually live together, have two addresses on paper. They take advantage of this: one home is illegally rented out to expats, as well as the parking permit. The woman also asks for child care allowance, as a single person. Some earn an extra 40 thousand euros per year."
"It is getting too easy", Zuurmond said, according to Het Parool. "Organized crime stands against an unorganized government. Criminals always modernize faster than the government, but the balance is missing. The underworld now has such a big advantage that more and more people opt for fast money." And the consequences thereof is clear in the assassinations committed by young, ruthless criminals who are barely on the police and judiciary's radar. "We insufficiently see how deeply rooted it is. If you report it, there are disbelieving reactions and then they go on with their day. But where the government is intolerably absent, the right of the strongest applies."
Just putting more police officers on the street will not solve this problem, the Ombudsman said. "This is not a capacity issue, it is an innovation issue", he said. "You will not solve this with more officers, but with smarter enforcement, better systems and more collaboration." For too long the government lingered on old thinking patterns, according to Zuurmond. It's not the chance of getting caught that should be increased, instead the chance of committing a crime should be reduced. According to Zuurmond, every offense has a certain pattern of behavior. "Identify this pattern and you can prevent the offense. The possibilities are not in the investigation. The possibilities are in prevention."