The Port of Antwerp’s marine police will have to reduce its patrols due to budget cuts, according to the Gazet van Antwerpen and Het Nieuwsblad, which reported on Saturday that it will no longer carry out any “big, special, crime-busting actions”.
The force, which is already chronically short-staffed, faces a new series of cost-cutting measures that now oblige it to limit overtime and weekend work, even though such shifts are crucial for their work, Belga News Agency reports.
Police officers carry out special nighttime and weekend operations against drug traffickers and smugglers.
"We cannot understand this,” said Joery Dehaes of the ACV Trade Union Federation, which represents the marine police.
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“We are under the impression that this government’s strategy is to let things go to rot and allow the police to bleed to death. Big-time crime has free rein.”
Home Affairs Minister Annelies Verlinden has promised to try to get the government to increase the marine police’s budget although, she argued, “a historic gap cannot be filled in a year and a half.”