Pascal Smet, secretary of state in the Brussels regional government responsible for fire protection, has said he wants cameras to be fitted to fire engines to help catch those who use violence against fire-fighting personnel.
None of the fire-fighters were injured, and there was no damage to fire engines, but the violence has rocked the service.
“Our men and women in the field are hoping for a strong signal,” said fire service spokesperson Walter Derieuw.
“It is perhaps appropriate to reclassify these acts as criminal acts and press charges for collective night-time arson or attempted homicide.”
Smet appeared on VRT radio on Monday morning to offer that strong signal.
“We are going to be repressive and tough,” he said. “The courts must accept their responsibility and sanction quickly.”
Out of every 100,000 interventions, he said, the fire service personnel are confronted on 13 occasions with physical aggression. So the issue is not overwhelming in Brussels, but it does remain a problem.
His solution: a chain approach which includes teachers, local community workers and beat police to build up a relationship with youths and restore confidence in the system.
“We will go into the neighbourhoods to explain to young people what the fire brigade does, and make them respect it. We will also look at what other European cities are doing. We want to do that soon.”
“In addition, we are working on adapted training courses for the fire service and we want to place cameras on fire service vehicles to collect additional evidence against the perpetrators.”
Turning to the courts, he called for action to speed up the process of bringing offenders to justice.
“The slowness of the courts does not help,” he said.
“We have to act quickly, so that the young people feel the effects of the sanctions immediately, not two and three years later.”
As far as what ‘immediately’ means, he explained that the judgement should come “the day itself, or the next day”.