Extension of random weapon searches proposed
18 March 2004
AMSTERDAM – Dutch Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner is investigating the possibility of extending random weapon searches to the public transport system and busy road junctions.
Donner said in a letter sent to the Lower House of Parliament, de Tweede Kamer, that preventative searches (preventief fouilleren in Dutch) had been a success in large cities in 2003.
He has ordered a feasibility study to investigate extending the option to trains, buses, trams and metros and to ticket counters. He would also like to give police the power to conduct random searches of motorists for weapons at major road junctions.
Currently, police can only carry out such searches in designated “risk areas” in urban districts and Donner submitted an evaluation of the stop-and-search programme to MPs on Wednesday.
A study group is to come up with proposals before the summer on extending random search powers.
Random searches caused great controversy when tried in Britain as opponents claimed police used racist criteria in deciding who to search. There has been little outcry in the Netherlands.
The tactic has been used in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Maastricht and other smaller cities. On the advice of police, the local mayor designates a district as “a risk area” to allow people to search everyone coming in or out of the area.
Random searches have been carried out extensively at Rotterdam Central Station and in stations in Amsterdam, but not on trains or buses.
The evaluation report presented to MPs Wednesday said no direct correlation could be drawn between random searches for weapons and increased security.
The minister asserted that the cities have nevertheless noted that districts have become quieter after weapons checks and criminals have not relocated to other parts of the city.
“The cities see preventative searches as an effective instrument against crime involving weapons,” Donner wrote.
Last year, officials in Rotterdam said that random searches had helped to significantly reduce the number of armed robberies.
Police in Rotterdam seized 578 weapons during random searches carried out from 20 September 2002 to 30 June 2003.
During that period some 18,697 people were searched in Rotterdam and one in every 33 was found to be carrying a weapon, the Justice Ministry said.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news + crime