The federal police in Brussels will no longer send a team of forensic experts to examine a crime scene at a burglary, unless there has been violence used, police union Sypol said.
The union is complaining about a shortage of manpower. “There are only 17 of us now, when the service should number 44 people,” a union representative said.
The forensic examiners, or scenes-of-crime officers, attend the scene of a crime to take evidence in the search for clues as to the perpetrators, including fingerprints, DNA samples, fibres and other trace materials.
Normally, teams of examiners are on call 4 hours a day, every day, but with less than half of the staff available, that sort of cover is no longer possible, unions say. Since 1 April until further notice, forensic examiners will only attend the scene of a burglary if violence has been involved, against the owner of the premises or, more rarely, by the owner against the thieves.
“If a thief comes in the night and steals your stuff, we will not be coming out, for lack of manpower,” the union said. "But if there has been contact between thief and victim, we will come out as usual.”
The union considers a selective strike to be the best way to make the public aware of the problem, but admits some innocent people may suffer. “In effect, to protect your belongings in the next few months, it might be best to live outside of Brussels.”
The teams will continue, however, to examine evidence lifted by local police from burglary scenes, but only if it is turned over on Mondays and Thursdays during office hours, And the Brussels-Ixelles zone will be less hard-hit than the other five zones of the capital. They have their own staff of trained evidence examiners to call on.
The Brussels Times