Security stepped up to protect customs officers against organised drug crime
Belgium's federal government is taking additional measures to protect customs officers in the fight against organised drug crime, Finance minister Vincent Van Peteghem announced on Friday. These include an increased police presence at customs sites and additional measures to secure seized drugs.
“The increase in seizures, and the continuous change in the modus operandi of criminal organisations, mean we have to switch continuously and quickly to keep our processes and security procedures appropriate,” Van Peteghem. Two dockworkers were assaulted last week at a customs post in the port of Antwerp.
Police will ensure increased security and conduct patrols at border inspection posts and at customs scanning, inspection and dismantling operations. Transport of seized drugs will be done under strict surveillance and contraband will be stored at a high-security secret site guarded by the military. There will be a faster recruitment procedure for customs officers and a reserved fast lane for incinerators will be negotiated with regional authorities.
"We have to switch continuously and quickly to keep our processes and security procedures appropriate"
“Besides the existing collaborations, the federal police will deploy additional teams, at the request and in support of customs, to increase the police presence in the vicinity of the sites and customs controls,” said Interior minister Annelies Verlinden.
“Customs officers will also continue to be able to rely on the specialised service of the federal police to escort and secure transports.”
The government attributes the higher risks and greater security challenges to an increase in seizures. “In the past month alone, we are talking about 40 tonnes,” said Justice minister Paul Van Tigchelt.
“That’s more than a third of what we seized in a whole year last year. The various departments are achieving startling successes and will all have to step up as a result. That is happening now: as we speak, tonnes of drugs are being destroyed.”
Interior minister Annelies Verlinden and Justice minister Paul Van Tigchelt visit a class of applicants for the port security corps at the training centre of the Federal Maritime Police in Wilrijk, Antwerp province, November 2023 © BELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM