Brussels Mayor calls for 'dual approach' to drug problems

Brussels Mayor calls for 'dual approach' to drug problems
People using drugs at the Tomorrowland music festival. Credit: Belga / Jonas Roosens

While Brussels mayor Philippe Close wants to see more financial support for the Federal Judicial Police in its crackdown on the illegal drug trade in Belgium, he would also like to see a greater focus on prevention and the treatment of addicts.

Close's mother has worked in a care centre for addicts for years and has grown up hearing how the problem needs to be tackled differently, not just through repression. "Safety is very important to me because residents of working-class neighbourhoods are the first victims of insecurity," Close continued. "But drug repression has its limits. You also have to help drug addicts."

Close advocates giving the security forces more resources to deal with the organised crime networks behind the drug trade in Belgium but also believes a different approach in Brussels, where drug violence and use is on the rise, is the way forward.

"The scale of the drug trade forces us to consider the question: what is actually going on in our society? We have seized €13 to 15 billion worth of cocaine, but a much larger proportion is slipping through the cracks," Close explained. "These are monstrously large sums which seep into our neighbourhoods."

Drug education in schools

It is in these neighbourhoods that prevention and assistance efforts should be focused he said. Attitudes towards drugs and the connection with large scale crime should be talked about more in schools, with children exposed to street dealing every day in some areas and may also be profiting from the trade in some way.

Close continued saying that the topic seems taboo to speak about but that it is exactly what to build a prevention campaign around. "In Belgium, we have never really wanted to discuss how to tackle this drug problem in recent years," he continued. "But the effects are disastrous, not only for the users, but also for their families and the people in the wider community."

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While Brussels and Liège now have areas where addicts can take drugs safely and under observation, Close wants more to be done to help addicts recover, save lives and deny the dealers the customers that support their business.

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