Twenty violent deaths in Amsterdam last year, fewer property crimes

Police forensics at Derk Wiersum shooting scene
Police forensic investigators gather evidence where attorney Derk Wiersum was fatally shot in Amsterdam. Sept. 18, 2019Image: Politie Amsterdam

Amsterdam saw a 43 percent increase in the number of murder and manslaughter cases last year, as well as a slight rise violent crimes. There was a decrease in most forms of property crimes, with a significant drop in picpocketing and theft from a vehicle, according to figures the Amsterdam municipality and police released on Monday. 

In total, 88,403 crimes were reported in Amsterdam last year. A slight decreased compared to the 88,717 crimes reported in 2018. After years of structural decline in the number of reported crimes, this downward trend seemed to come to a halt last year, mayor Femke Halsema said in a letter to the city council. 

Last year a total of 20 people were killed in the city, a 43 percent increase compared to the 14 cases of murder or manslaughter in 2018. The number of attempted murders remained stable at 286. The Public Prosecutor considers seven of last year's murders to be assassinations linked to drug trade in the city, Halsema said. The most high profile of these assassinations was the murder of lawyer Derk Wiersum. The reported cases of drug dealing increased nearly 7 percent to 1,479 last year. 

"It has already been established that excessive violence in Amsterdam is almost always linked to drug trafficking," the mayor said in her  letter to the city council. Drug trafficking has an increasing impact on the city, due to the excessive violence used, the undermining effect drug money has on a number of sectors, and young people being recruited to make a quick buck by working as drug mules, she said. "Perpetrators of assassinations are getting younger and younger and seem to be more quickly use excessive violence."

The total number of reported violent crimes increased by just over 3 percent, from 7,397 in 2018 to 7,629 last year. Reported threats saw the biggest increase in actual numbers, from 2,872 incidents in 2018 to to 3,047 last year. Percentage wise, public violence increased the most, up over 10 percent from 248 to 274. A total of 4,308 assaults were reported to the police, up from 4,277 in 2018. The number of street muggings increased from 1,304 to 1,328, and robberies from 238 to 241. 

Like the Amsterdam police chief and Public Prosecutor before her, mayor Halsema raised concerns about the increasing number of teenagers and young people who go around armed. "There appears to be a normalization of possession and use of weapons among young people, possibly related to the rise of the new street and youth culture," she said. "Owning a weapon gives status on the one hand, but also offers a sense of security in a harsh environment."

The number of reported sex crimes decreased from 652 in 2018 to 618 in 2019. But in her letter to the city council, mayor Halsema raised concerns that many victims of domestic and sexual violence do not report the crimes against them to the police. "The willingness of victims to report is remarkably low, also with relatively new phenomena such as online sextortion. All experts involved warn about the problem of vulnerable girls and women in Amsterdam who lack help and are isolated," she said. "For a small group of girls and women, the situation is really alarming and almost hopeless due to a negative spiral of abuse and violence."

Amsterdam therefore launched a targeted approach for victims of sexual violence with complex problems, as well as an information campaign to make sure victims know they are not alone and where to find help. 

Property crimes in the capital decreased last year. The number of thefts from homes, garages or sheds decreased over 8 percent from 4,222 to 3,871 last year. Thefts from motor vehicles dropped nearly 16 percent from 8,383 to 7,075, and the theft of motor vehicles themselves decreased almost 5 percent from 2,071 to 1,977. The theft of scooters, mopeds and bicycles increased from 11,979 to 12,100. Incidents of pickpocketing dropped 17 percent from 5,440 to 4,519.

Amsterdam residents reported more incidents of so-called "horizontal fraud" last year, up 18 percent to 6,580 cases. This involves fraud and scams in which individuals, companies, organizations, and financial institutions are the victim - such as phishing scams, rolling back a car's odometer, taking payment but not delivering the item, help desk fraud and the like. The incidents of "vertical fraud", in which the government is the victim, increased by nearly 8 percent to 56 cases. This involves things like residents claiming welfare benefits they are not entitled to. 

There were 274 incidents involving fire or explosives in the city last year, an increase of 12 percent compared to 244 in 2018. This likely has to do with an increase in ATM bombings throughout the Netherlands last year. Incidents of vandalism increased from 4,944 to 5,125. Incidents of shoplifting increased by nearly 10 percent to 55,614.