Conventional measures will not stop Amsterdam Zuidoost violence: Mayor

While not all the violent incidents in Amsterdam Zuidoost over the past weeks can be linked, there is a common thread, Amsterdam police chief Frank Paauw and mayor Femke Halsema said in a city council debate on Thursday. More than conventional measures will be needed to tackle the violence in the district, Halsema said, Het Parool reports.

The police have fairly good insight into the core of the problem - gangs of young criminals who immediately repay violence with more violence, Paauw said. "We see gang formation. There are some groups that will not back off until their conflict has been settled with weapons", he said.

The police are currently putting a lot of effort into getting "an information position" in these gangs - police jargons for informants. This is complicated by the great distrust that the gangs have towards each other, Paauw said. Being called a "snitch" is the least of the consequences, according to him.

In this specific area, not too much should be expected from conventional measures, Halsema said. She is not against preventative searches, like the right-wing parties suggested, but points out that it will cost a lot of capacity in Zuidoost. Opening drop-off points for weapons like the D66 and ChristenUnie want is good for morale, but not very effective. "The young people we are talking about here are of course not handing in their weapons", Paauw said.

The mayor and police chief therefore want to focus on two fronts - police investigations, and strengthening the neighborhoods so that residents themselves can help suppress the violence. Exit programs will be set up for young criminals who want a change in lifestyle. An experiment will be held with a neighborhood court, so that residents can see that the justice system works or them too. 

The city will also look for more space for meeting places, which are in high demand in Zuidoost. And pay more attention to the district in general. "In the number of police and enforcement, it is certainly not the case that Ziudoost has been forgotten. But people don't feel hat they get enough attention", Halsema said. 

The mayor also noted a silver lining - Zuidoost residents are not just accepting he violence as part of daily life. "Dissatisfaction and empowerment in Zuidoost are increasing enormously and I consider that a bright spot", she said. 

Amsterdam Zuidoost has been plagued by a string of violent incidents over the past weeks. Late in July, known criminal Inchomar Balentien was gunned down near the Kraaiennest subway station. On August 8th, a 28-year-old man was killed in a shooting on Hogevecht. Over the weekend between August 9th and 12th, there were four shootings in which one man was injured, a violent incident, and a hand grenade left in front of a home. 

Earlier this week, 23-year-old Genciel Feller from Amsterdam Zuidoost was shot and killed in Willemstad on Curacao. According to Het Parool, there are rumors in the Amsterdam criminal underworld that Feller and others from Amsterdam Zuidoost stole hundreds of kilograms of cocaine from a criminal for whom they had to store the drugs. Feller suddenly had a lot of money to spend, according ot the rumors. Locals fear that this will prompt another string of violence in the district.