Over 100 explosions in Rotterdam region this year
The number of violent incidents involving explosions in Rotterdam and surrounding municipalities has risen to 104 this year, according to a spokesperson from the Rotterdam police, corroborating reports from the regional media outlet Rijnmond on Wednesday.
The Rotterdam area has been ravaged for several years by explosions at homes and business premises throughout the city. It is suspected that the incidents are linked to drug trafficking. Stores and homes are especially affected by the explosions.
The number of such incidents has been sharply rising in recent years. In the Rotterdam police region, 12 such incidents were registered in 2021, a figure that rose to 65 the following year. Last weekend, two incidents occurred at separate buildings on Vierambachtsstraat in the center of Rotterdam.
Of the 104 incidents this year, 74 occurred in Rotterdam, with the remainder in nearby municipalities such as Vlaardingen, Schiedam, Capelle aan den IJssel, and Voorne aan Zee. According to Rijmond, the perpetrators use incendiary bombs, hand grenades, cobras, and assembled explosives.
Damage to homes and properties varies. Explosions have destroyed porches and storefronts, homes have been set ablaze, and walls have been defaced with threatening messages. In most cases, the damage is confined to shattered doors, broken locks, and windows or left with fragments of glass and soot marks. While the explosions have not led to any severe injuries, several residents have sustained minor ones.
Most of the violence is attributed to conflicts within the drug trade. In March, Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb said that the increasing number of explosions in Rotterdam was due to the successful interception of drugs at the port of Rotterdam. “So many drugs are seized that drug criminals start blaming each other for why a shipment has disappeared,” he said. He spoke of a trend, a “harrowing phenomenon,” where criminals go after not only rivals but also their families.
"Explosions are generally used as a tactic to exert pressure on someone," crime journalist Wouter Laumans explained to Rijnmond. "The underlying goal is sometimes to divert police and judicial scrutiny towards someone else." For instance, causing an explosion at a competing criminal's residence might result in that individual being closely investigated.
So far this year, the police have arrested 92 suspects in connection with violent acts such as explosions and shootings. Half of these suspects are under the age of 23. The youngest is 13 years old, while the oldest is 53. Out of the 92 arrested, 21 are minors, and 27 fall within the age range of 18 to 23 years, as revealed by the figures.
Perpetrators usually receive instructions via social media platforms like Snapchat and Telegram. They usually act motivated by the money, often unaware of the identity of the client or the target. The major players remain difficult to track down for the police since they use multiple intermediaries in their operations. “There are eight to nine layers between the client and the one who carries it out for a few hundred euros," Mayor Aboutaleb told Rijnmond in April of this year. Only the immediate perpetrators and go-betweens have been apprehended so far.
"We are working diligently to curb the rising trend of explosions," the police spokesperson said. "We hope the public will collaborate with us, maintain heightened vigilance, and always call 112 in suspicious situations. This approach has already allowed us to prevent several attacks, and we're deeply grateful to vigilant citizens for that."
In July, political parties in the Rotterdam city council voiced concerns over rising city violence. Leefbaar Rotterdam suggested deploying the Koninklijke Marechaussee when police resources are strained, while VVD proposed implementing the Group Violence Intervention method to deter youth from crime. PvdA highlighted the need for persistent monitoring of offenders and stressed the importance of both punishment and providing educational and job opportunities for young individuals.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times