Gay man beaten in Amsterdam angered by lack of police resources
Even immediately after Amsterdam resident Aaron Endré was pulled off his bicycle and beaten up while his attackers shouted gay slurs at him, the gay man never felt like the city was an inhospitable place to live. It was the way in which police handled the case that seemed to rattle him more than anything, he told NL Times. Amsterdam police countered, saying they did everything they could to investigate the situation, but their hands were tied by a lack of resources available to them, something which authorities in the capital have complained about for years.
The attack happened on Rozengracht, not far from Endré’s home, in an area lined with several restaurants and clubs. The 36-year-old from San Francisco and his boyfriend were cycling home from a party at around 4:50 a.m. on July 17, he told NL Times. One of the five doors of a dark Peugeot hatchback was blocking the bike lane, prompting Endré to slam it shut as he cycled past, he said. Four men emerged from near the car, chased him for about half a block, pulled him off his bike, and attacked him. They kicked him, stomped him, and called him homophobic slurs, including “faggot,” he said.
When Endré‘s boyfriend turned back, the attackers ran off leaving the victim wounded on the street. Endré suffered cuts, scrapes, and bruises, but he did not have a concussion or broken bones. The offenders jumped into the Peugeot and drove away, Endré told police that night, with his partner having captured a photo of the hatchback’s license plate.
Endré’s partner called the police, but from the start, they felt as if the police did not believe the two men’s statements, Endré said. The victim saw the alleged offenders talking to a security officer from the nearby Chin Chin Club, a man who may have aided the attackers in their escape. The attackers and the guard all wore clothing with the logo of the same security company, the victim claimed, leading him to believe they are colleagues known to each other.
After asking, the police told Endré that the guard said he had hit a car and fallen off his bike, aligning with the police dispatcher's original assessment the case was a traffic accident. Endré argued with the two officers at the scene, who refused to track down the Peugeot over privacy issues. “This was not a traffic accident. This was an assault,” Endré told NL Times.
“I have always felt safe living here, until now. First because of the attack and then because of police dismissiveness afterward. It is a double slap.” He spoke to NL Times the same week that a report came out suggesting that the quality of life for people of diverse sexualities was not as welcoming in the Netherlands as in other European countries.
Police vehemently denied that officers and detectives either blew off Endré or were negligent in their duty. Still, more than two weeks after he filed a two-page statement at a police station regarding the violent crime, he still had not been contacted by a police investigator, Endré claimed. Instead, he learned on the police’s victim portal that his case had been shelved on July 26th because the police could not locate a suspect, he said, despite giving police a description of the attackers and the Peugeot’s license plate number. He also said at least one of the nearby businesses was willing to provide the police with surveillance camera footage if asked.
Detectives did not turn up evidence to prosecute
The police confirmed to NL Times that several people attacked the victim while biking. He suffered some minor injuries but did not require hospitalization, the police said. Detectives did investigate after the victim filed his declaration, the spokesperson said, emphatically adding that the case was taken very seriously and was not blown off, as Endré felt.
“The incident was captured by one camera from very far away,” the police spokesperson said. The investigators who viewed the video said it was shot from too great a distance to identify any suspect. The license plate of the car would only take detectives to the vehicle’s owner, not necessarily the occupants, the spokesperson continued.
The footage was also looked at by the police Roze & Blauw team, which is dedicated to LGBTQIA+ outreach and assistance, but they agreed the video could not lead to a successful prosecution. Police said there were other cameras in the area, but that some of them are dummy cameras meant to ward off criminals but which do not actually capture any video.
The video did show that the cyclist slammed the car door “with force,” and then people from the car went after him, the spokesperson said. “Even though a victim maybe should have done something differently, it is not a reason for assault to take place,” she stressed.
The police may pursue the case if more evidence emerges, but for now, the strained level of resources in the Amsterdam division means the assault will be recorded as an unsolved statistic. If the victim’s injuries had been more severe, they might have continued to pursue the case in other ways, like a public call for witnesses. Under the circumstances, however, she told NL Times that they did everything they could with the available resources they had, including canvassing businesses around the Rozengracht for more video footage.
“As the Amsterdam Police, for many years, we have been saying we need more people. We have been saying that for years, and thus we have to make tough choices every day,” the spokesperson said. “I get that is hard for a victim to hear. That doesn’t change your pain.”
Victim can try to force prosecution
“What really concerns me is the number of hate crimes and other crimes that go unreported because the police do not believe the victims or do not have the resources to follow up,” Endré said.
Staff and capacity shortages at the police are a nationwide problem in the Netherlands. Last year, the police dropped nearly 32,000 cases without fully investigating them due to a shortage of police personnel.
Earlier this week, police also told Endré that without more conclusive proof, like images clearly showing the assault taking place and the perpetrators, they could not interrogate the owner of the car over privacy issues. “Basically you can get chased down by people, thrown off your bike, kicked, called names, and then the police will believe the bouncer that helped them escape unless you have video evidence,” Endré tersely replied during that call, accusing the police of not doing their job to resolve the case.
The officer, irritated by this remark, strongly defended the work of the police investigators, elaborating that he alone had several dozen open case files to attend to, and that Endré‘s case did not warrant more manhours as a prosecution was unlikely. He quickly ended the call after that.
The victim is considering using an Article 12 procedure, a way for civilians to essentially force the prosecution of a case that was previously dropped by having the situation examined by a Court of Appeals. He said he has not made a decision and did not rule out working with an attorney to make sure the assault is not merely lost in a sea of statistics.
Keep reporting crimes, police say
Police also said that anyone with information about Endré‘s case, such as CCTV or dashcam footage, can contact them about it. They may continue to investigate the case if more evidence surfaces.
Despite the shortage of available resources in the Amsterdam police department, the police spokesperson stressed that victims must continue to report all crimes, from petty bicycle thefts to violent crimes, even if the police do not have the capacity to investigate all of them. All reported crimes are registered and then compiled to identify trends, giving the city’s police force a clearer view of what is happening in Amsterdam.
This can also lead to changes in how resources are allocated, and gives police more justification when calling for an increased budget, higher staffing levels, and more tools to prevent crime and solve cases.