Invest in youth development to prevent organized crime: Dutch police chief

The police noticed a striking increase in young offenders over the past year, according to annual figures released on Wednesday. More and more young people are turning to online fraud to make some quick cash, or walking around with weapons on the street - a worrying development, according to National Police Chief Erik Akerboom. "We have to invest in young people who are at risk of slipping [into a life of crime] to prevent new Taghis growing up in the neighborhood," Akerboom said in an interview with AD.

The police chief was referring to Ridouan Taghi - the alleged leader of an organized crime gang suspected of being behind multiple assassinations. Taghi was arrested in Dubai late last year, after a years-long manhunt. 

According to Akerboom, the problem of armed young people walking the streets is mainly in Amsterdam and Rotterdam at this stage. "Young people there seem to want to adopt the gangster culture from the United States. Others feel threatened by this and carry a weapon out of fear," he said to the newspaper. "That is a wrong spiral that I am certainly worried about."

"The youngest looter from Rotterdam was 12-years-old, a boy with a Molotov cocktail in Duindorp in The Hague was 9, robberies with knives were committed by an 11-year-old. You can easily order weapons online," Akerboom said. Police in the neighborhoods where this is going on do what they need to, he said. "That varies from preventative searches to actions at school." But that is not enough "We have to invest in young people who are at risk."

"It is of the utmost importance that parents know what their children are doing, so we want community police officers to visit them," the police chief said to the newspaper. I want to get back into the neighborhood, but that is under pressure because of the shortages."

The police are also working on campaigns at schools "to make it clear that internet fraud is totally punishable", Akerboom said.