Belgium introduces new measures to fight drug crimes

BRUSSELS – Belgium has adopted a new set of measures to fight drug-related crimes after the rise of gang-related violence in the port city of Antwerp.

The federal government approved a strategy and a package of seven measures to fight drug trafficking and organized crime, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced at a news conference after a meeting of the National Security Council.

He called the fight against drug crime “an absolute priority” for his government after drug-related violence has dramatically increased over the past years.

Belgian Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne, their drug problem has now reached “the phase of narco-terrorism, where the underworld is now increasingly turning to the upper world, threatening people and infiltrating.”

The government will appoint a national drug commissioner who will coordinate the work of different institutions with a deputy and 10 officers. It will also boost security at the port of Antwerp by increasing the number of law enforcement agents and screening personnel.

They are already hiring 108 customs officers, and the number of maritime police agents will also be raised from 116 to 312. The port of Antwerp will also employ 86 new security guards.

During the recruitment process, the army will immediately deploy 50 troops to reinforce security. In addition, the 16,000 port workers across the country will be screened, checking their criminal status and financial situation as well.

The government has also decided to triple the fine for cocaine users to up to €1,000 ($1,066) or offer them rehabilitation. Under the new set of measures, the Belgian police will strengthen their cooperation with international partners.

In January, an 11-year-old girl died accidentally in a shooting between mafia members in Antwerp. Some 218 drug-related incidents, which included shooting and car burning, have taken place in the city over the past five years. (Anadolu)