Explosive growth in use of illegal hand grenades in NL

Police and explosive experts at a sisha lounge on Jan Evertsenstraat where a hand grenade was found tied to the door of a sisha lounge, 1 Feb 2019
Police and explosive experts at a sisha lounge on Jan Evertsenstraat where a hand grenade was found tied to the door of a sisha lounge, 1 Feb 2019Photo: @Politie_Adam / Twitter

The number of incidents involving illegal hand grenades in the Netherlands is growing explosively, according to researchers Marieke Liem and Katharina Krüsselmann from Leiden University. More such incidents were registered in the past 18 months than in all of the previous ten years. Almost a third of the incidents happened in Amsterdam, RTL Nieuws reports.

In the past 11 years there were a total of 117 incidents with illegal hand grenades in the Netherlands, according to the researchers. More than half of them happened in 2018 and the first months of 2019. In 21 of the cases, a person was threatened or attacked with a grenade. Nine people were injured, some of them seriously. So far, no one has been killed. Suspects were arrested in only 20 percent of cases. 

That is more luck than anything else, researcher and criminologist Marieke Liem said to the broadcaster. "For example, we also see a huge increase in hand grenade violence in Sweden, and there were deaths there. Including bystanders. If the trend continues, you could expect that there will also be fatal casualties here."

The incidents happened in 45 different municipalities, but the use of grenades is especially on the rise in Amsterdam. Almost a third of the grenade incidents happened in the capital. The city recently set up a task force to come up with solutions on how to deal with this issue. Their strategy will be presented in June next year. In the meantime, Amsterdam is taking other measures, like installing extra cameras and extra patrols and surveillance. Earlier this month the Amsterdam court decided to impose harsher punishments on criminals caught leaving a grenade on the street. If you are caught in Amsterdam, you face 18 months in prison, compared to six months elsewhere in the country.

The reason behind the increasing use of grenades is unclear. According to the researchers, the police registration of such incidents leaves something to be desired. Little is known about motives. There are suspicions that hand grenades are regularly used as a means of extortion or intimidation. Two thirds of the grenade incidents targeted a business. Many businesses were closed by their municipality after grenades were found tied to their door or left on the street in front of them, sometimes resulting in bankruptcy. Grenades are also cheap and easily available - a grenade can be bought on the black market for as little as 5 euros a piece, former Amsterdam police chief Pieter Jaap Aalbersberg said last year.