Amsterdam police to tackle rise in shootings & explosions at ATMs, cafes, and homes
Police in Amsterdam will set up two new teams to tackle the criminal underworld that has led to a series of explosions in the capital amid an apparent rise in organized crime. There have been over fifty attacks on banks, homes, bars, cafes and restaurants so far this year, according to De Telegraaf.
Police chief Frank Paauw told the newspaper that the two new teams will be needed to tackle the use of explosives to rob ATMs, but also extortion, gang rivalries, and extortion. A police spokesperson told ANP that, “in the past two to three weeks, an explosive went off somewhere in the city every few days.”
Previously, about thirty police officers were working together as a unit in Amsterdam to fight organized crime, but the team was reportedly disbanded due to staff shortages shortly before the coronavirus pandemic. The officers were transferred to other departments in a move the police union NPB called “undesirable” because it was "crucial in the fight against organized crime.
A week later, at the end of 2019, Amsterdam’s mayor, Femke Halsema, stated in a letter that the city needed 500 more police officers, but said her requests to the Ministry of Justice and Security were not fulfilled. She was supported by the police force and the local Public Prosecution Service district office.
Paauw spoke to De Telegraaf after the recent wave of explosions, which he said are perpetrated by “reckless and stupid idiots from vulnerable neighborhoods” using homemade devices. They often fail to make off with cash when they attempt to blow open an ATM, he said. The money is typically no longer usable, and can be linked back to the suspects, he stated.
Additionally, the fear of a building collapsing is very real, and Paauw said he was worried about what will happen if residential complexes with bank machines continue to be targeted. “We are very concerned. They are using increasingly heavier explosives.”
Aside from the attacks on bank machines, there has been a growing number of incidents where homes and businesses are targeted with explosives or gunfire. This happens either when someone is the victim of an extortion plot, but also when a feud between rival drug gangs escalates, he told the newspaper.
"The perpetrators are very easy to recruit. They are already carrying out attacks for a thousand euros. For example, with a bottle of petrol and a Cobra 6 firework glued to it. Very easy," Paauw said.
Amsterdam often shuts down business properties, or locks up residential properties, when violent crime threatens public safety. For years, business owners have complained that an extortionist can easily push them into a lose-lose situation where they either have to comply with a criminal’s demands, or risk retribution. The retribution then leads to their business being shut down anyway, incurring extensive financial damages.
The city recently shut down two hospitality businesses for six months after explosives were detonated outside last week. Cafe In The City, in the Leidseplein area, and The Harbour Club, in Amsterdam-Oost, both said they were shocked by the city’s decision. Violent crimes also happened at both locations in the past, but the owners said they always cooperate with ensuing police investigations.
The EOD, which handles the disposal of explosives, already said earlier this month that the use of homemade explosives in attacks and attempted attacks on buildings and vehicles is on the rise, while hand grenade use is decreasing. The new investigative teams will include forensic and other experts who may be able to trace the origin of the explosives used, a police spokesperson told ANP.