Mayor of Antwerp Bart De Wever (N-VA) has expressed his concern about an attempt to kidnap the Federal Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open VLD) which was uncovered last week. However, the mayor didn't seem all that surprised.
"Very concerning but predictable," were the words used by De Wever in a recent municipal council meeting on drug-related violence in Antwerp, to describe the recent rise in violence and attempted kidnapping of the minister.
Because of its port, Antwerp has long been a European hub for drug trafficking. The illicit trade has also resulted in an increase in violent activity in the city, believed to be the result of feuds between rival drug gangs.
Yet it seems that the criminals are expanding their targets beyond rivals to public figures. To this end, a drug gang is suspected of parking a vehicle full of firearms outside Van Quickenborne's home last week, in reaction to efforts by authorities to crack down on drug-related violence.
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Bart De Wever, whose N-VA party's political programmes have long focused on law and order, has been chastised by local opposition parties for the rise of these drug-related incidents in the city.
On one hand, De Wever has been criticised by his opponents for putting the blame on the Federal Government rather than assuming responsibility for the violence and taking measures to curb it; on the other, his choice of repression rather than prevention has also come under fire.
In response, De Wever defended his actions by stating that “drug criminals who have been living abroad for a long time send Dutch teams to attack (the city of Antwerp). He added that "it’s too late to tackle this with local police forces.”
In the meantime, the Federal Government has given more power to local authorities and will allocate over €400 million to the Federal Police, in the fight against organised crime.