A few weeks ago, the mayor of Amsterdam Eberhard van der Laan, announced a new harassment policy for the city: de Treiteraanpak. International media reacted quickly and in a virulent way to this policy. They didnot hesitate to use strong words such as “scum camp”, “intolerance” and headline like “Amsterdam will put their criminalsin a camp”.
On the other hand, the few articles in the Dutch media had a completely different point of view about it. So what is this new policy really about?
The city of Amsterdam receives about 13,000 harassment complaints a year about neighbours. This includes light disturbances (playing loud music) and also the heavier cases of harassment and intimidation. One of the solutions proposed by the mayor is to relocate the most severe harassers outside of the city.
Amsterdam presented a bullying approach to fight problems of intimidation and harassment in neighbourhoods or homes. « For examples there are gay or lesbian couples that are constantly being intimidated. Or a family that is being threatened and harassed as a form of retaliation because one of the family members witnessed a crime and reported it to the police » said Tahira Limon, International Press Officer of the city of Amsterdam.
« We’ve learned that in these severe cases, the victims of harassment tend to move out of the neighbourhood to escape that very situation. As a city, we feel that we need to protect the victims and make sure that –if anybody is to leave the neighbourhood- it is the offender that gets relocated. Forced relocation is not the ultimate goal of this approach; it is a way to ensure that the intimidation stops if all other measures have failed. »
What will happen in those severe cases (no more than 10 cases a year) is that the offenders will be relocated to a simple housing unit for a maximum of six months where they can be monitored by municipal services, the police and social workers. These locations are in less densely populated areas of the city for the purpose of close monitoring and minimal nuisance.
« After that first six-month period, we will startlooking for a long-term solution. Offenders will be relocated to a different neighbourhood. The goal of this approach is of course rehabilitation and to solve these problems, not to put people outside of the society. »
However the reaction of the media is in some way understandable if we know that this “camp” will be made of maritime containers. “But the aim is not to reward people who behave badly with a new five-room home with a south-facing garden. This is supposed to be a deterrent” said the spokesman of the Mayor. Moreover, previous similar project in this city failed such as the “Tuigdorpen” proposed by Geert Wilders, an extreme right-wing politician.
A lot of questions can be asked and the answers are hard to find; Is this solution a good one? Is it the fact that Amsterdam has always been pioneering that shocked the International media or is it a lack of information? Anyway, none of the international media nor the municipality of Amsterdam has the absolute truth about this subject. The most important matter is to stay objective and try to stay well informed.
By Vivienne Anselme, Alice Declercq and Margaux Detry.