Employees of Brussels’ public transit company STIB are being attacked on a daily basis, according to STIB CEO Brieuc de Meeûs.
“Every day I receive several reports of physical violence against the staff,” de Meeûs told Le Soir. “STIB employees are often on the front lines, but especially in recent weeks, the situation has worsened considerably.”
De Meeûs is usually not informed immediately when a verbal aggression occurs against one of his employees, but an information system does alert him at once when there is a physical attack.
“There is not a day when there are not two, even three or four attacks against STIB staff. It is really shocking,” De Meeûs said. “I get a lot of messages. From Monday to Sunday, seven days a week.”
Attacks are increasingly violent
The attacks often involve a high level of violence, as well.
“It is often very violent and downright frightening – boys are taken to hospital with broken arms and stitches, but also traumatised drivers and buses are pelted with stones, or even staff at stations that are spat at,” said de Meeûs.
“Yesterday, for example, a homeless man threw burning liquid in the face of one of the staff. It’s all about extremely harsh physical attacks.”
De Meeûs says the increase in violence isn’t limited to particular districts of the capital, but rather the phenomenon affects the entire region: “It’s everywhere. One person’s wrist broken in Uccle by a person who was being checked and was not okay. We also had some cases of aggression at Flagey.”
He attributes the rise in violence to growing tensions as a result of the coronavirus and related measures to control its spread.
“We feel a lot of tension in society. We can’t go on like this. If people want to let off steam, they should do sport, walk around the park, whatever, but not target STIB staff.”