Inspection: police lose grip on neighbourhoods

The police know too little about what is going on in the neighbourhoods to identify problems in time and intervene before it really becomes unsafe. That is what the Justice and Security Inspectorate judges after investigation. Neighbourhood policemen who are involved in enforcement are overburdened. As a result, they hardly have time to invest in contacts in the neighbourhood and are more often involved in unsafe situations.

“The information position is weakening, the police are actually running behind the facts,” says Peter Neuteboom, chief inspector at the inspection. “Especially in medium-sized cities and in rural areas. That’s a worrying development, it weakens the effectiveness of the police.”

Foundation police

The importance of the neighbourhood policeman is actually anchored in the Dutch police model. “The neighbourhood policeman is the pride and foundation of the Dutch police,” says Neuteboom. “Neighborhood policemen should get signals early if someone threatens to slip into crime or starts to show confused behavior”

But community policemen are increasingly being deployed for other tasks. According to the Inspectorate, it is not the case that the police make the wrong choices, but that they are increasingly turning to the police, such as the recent riots in, among others, The Hague and Utrecht. In addition, the officers are deployed for emergency aid, supervising demonstrations and securing people. “That eats capacity.”

Expertise disappears

The research also shows that there is a hardening within criminal youth groups. Young people aged 11 and over are guilty of serious crimes such as armed robbery, hostage-taking and even attempted manslaughter. Identifying these has become more difficult because these young people are increasingly communicating with each other online. In this environment, the police are still not active enough, according to the inspectorate.

Meanwhile, more and more specialised teams are disappearing, such as the hemp team, youth agents and the home invasion team. As soon as these teams have achieved their goals, they are disbanded and their knowledge and expertise disappears. This makes the police more and more dependent on the municipalities to get information from the neighbourhood. But they are reluctant to share that information because of privacy laws.

The large number of reports about confused persons also places a heavy burden on the police. In 2014, there were still 60,000 reports, which will rise to 100,000 in 2019. These signals should actually be picked up at an early stage from the care sector so that they do not end up with the police.

What does the minister want?

It is a problem that has been going on for years. Neighbourhood policemen already drew attention to it in 2016. The management of the police force says it recognizes itself in the report, but emphasizes that the police are certainly still connected to the neighbourhoods

The Dutch Police Association points out that with the arrival of the National Police in 2013, the number of officers has been cut back. In addition, according to the union, more priority has been given to detecting and prosecuting criminals than to preventing social insecurity and crime in the neighbourhood. A new cabinet should invest in preventive police work, according to the police union.

The Inspectorate advises Minister Grapperhaus to determine, together with the police and mayors, what kind of police the Netherlands needs. “Now the police are changing from an organisation that can prevent preventative problems to an organisation that acts repressively when problems have arisen,” says the inspector. “The conversation is necessary to prevent that we get a police that is only behind the facts”