Utrecht deploys ex-criminals to dissuade young people from joining drug world
Utrecht will work with ex-criminals to prevent young people from entering the drug environment. This is part of an integrated plan to fight drug crime in the city. From the police, the Public Prosecution Service, the Probation Service to Rabobank and housing associations are participating in this effort.
Utrecht is a hub in the international drug trade. About fifty criminal networks are active in the city and 150 in the region. "Utrecht proposes a reinforced approach to counteract further disruptive efforts of drug crime," said mayor Sharon Dijksma in a letter to the city council on Thursday.
In addition to the prevention of crime, an important element of the approach is aimed at young people who already have one foot in crime and who are at risk of further growth. Utrecht wants to try to keep them on the right track. The municipality will do this by using credible messengers. They are people who got out of crime themselves. They have the authority to help young people make different choices in order to stop the "breeding ground for criminal organizations"
According to Dijksma, young people roll "very subtly" in crime. They see drug dealers as ordinary traders doing customers a favor. "It is worrying when the image arises that crime is normal. Being there as a government at the right time makes all the difference if we want to prevent young people from opting for crime or help them stay out of it permanently and not relapse."
Special job coaches are also being used to find "a job with status" as an alternative to crime. This involves young people who find it difficult to find work after, for example, being in jail. "These coaches help to find work, during or after detention. The Declaration on Behavior (VOG) is seen as an obstacle to getting a job. The municipality is investigating with the Ministry of Justice how these thresholds can be taken away - under certain conditions," the letter read.
Moreover, Utrecht wants to gain insight into criminal money flows. "Many billions are involved in the drug trade and the related economy. Upper and underworld are mixing. The municipality is committed to an area-oriented approach, where the risks of criminal interference are highest. In Utrecht, the Nieuw Overvecht business park and the Amsterdamsestraatweg. Lessons learned here can then be used for the entire city and region," said Dijksma. According to her, drug crime occurs in all neighborhoods.
Reporting by ANP.