Flemish parties call for alcohol ban as arrests surge in Brussels pedestrian zone 
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    Flemish parties call for alcohol ban as arrests surge in Brussels pedestrian zone 

    An alcohol ban was proposed by Flemish parties to counter rising crime in Place de la Bourse, in Brussels' pedestrian zone. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

    Two Flemish parties on Monday called for the introduction of an alcohol ban in downtown Brussels citing crime and safety concerns in the city’s pedestrian zone.

    Representatives of the nationalist Nieuw Vlaamse Alliantie (N-VA) and of the Christian-democratic CD&V said Brussels authorities should follow in the footsteps of Schaerbeek and ban alcohol consumption on public roads, according to Bruzz.

    The move should be implemented as a temporary measure, according to the outlet, as a way to counter rising instances of theft and violent crime in the pedestrian areas around Place de la Bourse, in downtown Brussels.

    The party’s call draws from reports in Flemish media that crime and insecurity were rife in the pedestrian area, with tourists and party-goers falling victim to theft and with a growing number of arrests made in recent years.

    In 2018, police carried out a total of 515 judicial arrests in the area, with 605 arrests made in August of this year so far.

    Brussels Mayor Philippe Close said that the hike in the number of arrests was proof that an increased police presence was yielding results.

    “The police are present on the street, in uniform or in civilian [clothes] both day and night,” the outlet cited Close as saying. “The fact that the number of judicial arrests has increased is proof to me that that approach is paying off.”

    Out of the arrests carried out so far this year, 165 were for drug-related offences, 144 for theft with violence and around a hundred for pickpocketing or petty thefts.

    An additional 177 administrative fines, or GAS fines, have been issued for public intoxication and 354 more for disturbing the public order or illegal occupation of the public space.

    Bianca Debaets, a member of the CD&V, also asked for beggars to be banned from the central avenues of the pedestrian zone, lined up with shops, bars and restaurants.

    In addition to increased police presence, his administration was also cooperating with social aid centre CPAS/OCMW to provide assistance to people who have “serious psychological problems” and who are living on the street.

    Gabriela Galindo
    The Brussels Times