Worries about drug violence in Flanders continue
Drug violence continues to be a hot topic in Flemish and Belgian politics. Belgian minister of the Interior Annelies Verlinden will meet with the mayors of large cities in the country on Thursday, to discuss a law that should give local authorities more clout against organised crime. This was confirmed by her cabinet. The meeting comes after an upsurge of violence in Antwerp in recent weeks, with several attacks in a short time.
Minister Verlinden wants to give local authorities the possibility to carry out "integrity investigations" in certain sectors. On the basis of these investigations, the municipality can then refuse, suspend or withdraw the licence of a business or catering establishment. The municipality would thus have the power to close a business if it can be linked to illegal activities or money laundering.
At the federal level, there will also be a new Directorate of Integrity Assessment for Public Administrations (DIOB), which will advise the municipalities on their conduct of integrity investigations. The DIOB will have access to data from the police, finances, criminal records, etc., among other things.
And that is necessary, since other provinces are worried about drug violence spreading across to other places in Flanders. For example, Het Belang van Limburg wrote on Wednesday that around 30 reprisals related to the drug trade happen in Limburg every year. The province is a prime target for criminals due to its border with the Netherlands.
"In our province we have to deal with a different level of criminals.," says Kris Vandepaer, head of the Limburg Federal Judicial Police. "We are talking about the middle management or the top of the criminal organisations. They organise and finance the logistics of importing and exporting drugs, for example, and don't get their hands dirty throwing a grenade."
© BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK