From weapons to drugs, criminals like to use storage boxes

More often than expected, criminals make use of warehouses that are easy to rent throughout the Netherlands. New research shows that.

The garage boxes are sometimes filled to the brim with stuff from and for criminals. Sometimes the tenants keep heavy automatic weapons, illegal clothing or raw materials for drug production. There are also examples of complete drug labs that are rigged in the middle of a residential area.

The Black Box report of the Mobile Banditry Task Force, shared with Nieuwsuur, shows that criminals like to rent such storage facilities. This special investigative unit searches for itinerant criminal gangs that are guilty of all kinds of different crimes.

Tenants known to the police

Among other things, the study looked at the license plates of tenants of this type of storage box in the Brabant region. A quarter of the tenants turned out to be known to the police and to have criminal offences in his or her name. This involved an average of six criminal offences per tenant.

This was observed at a location with a dubious reputation, where it was already thought that not everything was up to scratch. But even at a location of a national chain that rents out storage space, it turned out that a quarter of the tenants of stalls also had criminal offences on their hands.

Seriously, says criminologist Henk Ferwerda, who carried out the investigation on behalf of research bureau Beke. “I would have expected this at that questionable location, but certainly not at such a national chain. Some companies think they’ve closed this hole at the front and screened their tenants properly, but apparently they haven’t”, says Ferwerda.

If a warehouse or storage box is used by criminals, the neighbors and landlords usually know nothing. The neighbours of a warehouse in Heiloo also noticed this, where the police brutally invaded:

For the study, researchers together with district police officers, boas and municipalities made a list of 25 companies in Brabant of which it was suspected that something was wrong. Of those 25 companies, 22 were found to have criminal tenants.

At two locations of nationwide rental companies, boxes were found with fabrics for the production of mdma and crystal meth, kilos of gold and almost a ton of cash. Mayor Paul Depla of Breda, who collaborated in the investigation, is shocked by these results. “It shows that our assumption that criminals like to use those boxes to operate anonymously is actually the case.”

Six clusters of smaller garage boxes are also being researched in Brabant. Four of these clusters, which are rented out by private individuals or housing corporations, involve malpractice. This varies from dumping chemical waste to finding a drug lab or stolen vehicles. “In the case of a drug lab you have a high risk of explosion, a kind of walking time bomb, you shouldn’t want that in a residential area,” says Paul Depla.

Landlords want to cooperate with the government

Eric Stubbรฉ, managing director of rental company Allsafe Mini Storage, is surprised that this type of activity has also been discovered at professional national rental companies. “We are doing everything we can within the law to keep this out of our companies. But this sounds worrisome, and industry and government will have to do something about it together”

Nick de Jong is the landlord of such a warehouse where a drug lab was found. He would like the police and the municipality to cooperate more with pan owners. “I’ve done everything in my power to prevent this. Then it turns out that there is such a lab and my premises are locked up for a year”, he says. “But on what grounds should I refuse a tenant,” De Jong wonders.

Stubbรฉ argues for a system whereby the rental companies can request approval from the government in case of doubt about a tenant. “Then the government can say: this tenant and this tenant not.”