The authorities in Amsterdam and Rotterdam have closed a record number of houses this year following an explosion or shooting targeting the homes. So far, Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema ordered 16 homes and businesses closed, and her Rotterdam counterpart, Ahmed Aboutaleb, 28, De Telegraaf reports.
Last year, 12 buildings were closed by order of the mayor in Amsterdam and 22 in Rotterdam. Mayors in the Netherlands can take this step based on advice from the police and Public Prosecution Service in order to protect public safety and -order in a neighborhood.
A wave of explosions and gunshots targeting homes and businesses have been plaguing the two largest cities of the Netherlands. The authorities believe most of the attacks are related to conflicts in the criminal environment. There were 83 explosions in the Amsterdam-Amstelland region in the first half of this year and 89 in the Rotterdam-Rijnmond region. In the whole of the Netherlands, the counter stood at 303 on July 4, compared to 325 over the entire 2022, according to the Telegraaf.
John Schilder, a professor of constitutional and administrative law at the VU University in Amsterdam, called it a “diabolical dilemma” for municipalities. Residents of affected homes are increasingly forced to leave their homes, but the mayors also have to protect the other residents of the neighborhood. “Mayors have no choice but to close buildings because it poses a direct danger to the environment, and the maintenance of public order and safety takes precedence,” Schilder told the newspaper. “It sometimes happens that a criminal’s house got shot at, but the bullets went through the neighbors’ window. Then something has to be done to protect the neighbor. A vacant building is often no longer a target.”
A building doesn’t always automatically close after a shooting or explosion. For example, Amsterdam “in principle” won’t close a home if children live there. The authorities check on a case-by-case basis. Rotterdam uses a similar approach. “From a duty of care, we take all facts and circumstances into account,” a spokesperson told the newspaper. Rotterdam usually closes a building for one to three months, with the possibility to extend. Amsterdam closes the building for three months, with the option to open it again earlier.
In Amsterdam, families who have to leave their homes due to municipal closure can go to the GGD for help arranging alternative shelter. In Rotterdam, the Salvage foundation helps residents for the first night. “The following nights are up to the corporation or landlord to organize another shelter,” a municipal spokesperson told the Telegraaf.