Antwerp introduces identity checks near centre to combat public disturbances

In Antwerp, Mayor Bart De Wever (N-VA) has given the police permission to carry out systematic identity checks in the broader area around the Operaplein. The temporary measure, which will last until the end of May at least, is intended to combat the growing nuisance caused by young people.

Ongoing disturbances

Last year, the area around the Operaplein and De Keyserlei was also the scene of persistent springtime nuisance, often caused by very young perpetrators. Visitors to shops and restaurants were harassed, passers-by intimidated and unhoused people attacked. The police made administrative arrests of many young people and visited their homes to speak to their parents. The perpetrators of the most serious crimes were also placed under house arrest on New Year's Eve.

The police had already carried out extra preventive surveillance in the area in recent weeks to prevent a recurrence of the phenomenon. "There has indeed been a resurgence of problematic behaviour by groups of young people who have intimidated passers-by and assaulted visitors to shops and restaurants," De Wever's cabinet said. "There have also been fights and vandalism. The perpetrators were always confronted with their behaviour or asked to leave the area. No fewer than 159 young people have been checked in recent weeks. The demographic is mostly minors from outside of Antwerp, with about 20 repeat offenders.

The police can now temporarily carry out systematic identity checks to deter disturbance. "We want to deter troublemakers who want to spoil the pleasant atmosphere," says De Wever. "Gatherings that could cause serious nuisance or disturb the peace will also be closely monitored. Especially with the good weather forecast, we need to ensure the safety of shopkeepers, restaurateurs and passers-by".


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