Antwerp police spent last weekend carrying out specific actions in the centre of the city designed to tackle the nuisance complaints they’ve been getting over the past few weeks, and say that mandatory closing times for bars and restaurants have a big part in the number of issues they’re dealing with.
A total of 126 nuisance-related official reports were drawn up over just Friday and Saturday alone, in addition to other official reports related to violations of the remaining coronavirus measures, according to a press release.
Those non-coronavirus related reports included 109 GAS fines (Municipal Administrative Sanctions for minor nuisances), with 77 of them for public urination.
“In the first instance, our teams will act as mediators in the field and try to get people to comply with the COVID measures, despite the pandemic fatigue,” said the police statement, referring to an overall sentiment from officers that they’re growing weary of enforcing coronavirus measures.
“We cannot tolerate nuisance for the neighbourhood. When things get out of hand and those present completely ignore or don’t listen to reason, our people will proceed to hand out fines or arrest the biggest troublemakers.”
Another 14 fines issued during the weekend were for drug possession, nine of them were for public begging, seven were for illegal dumping, and one was for selling narcotics.
Seven arrests were also made, including five for disturbing the public order.
Police focused their attention on hot spots for these sorts of nuisances.
“After the catering industry closed its doors (at 10:30 PM), police teams carried out specific surveillance on the premises,” police said in the statement.
“After midnight, groups of more than four people were addressed.”
They said that while the Scheldt quays and the Theaterplein remained quiet, on Leopold de Waelplaats and in the vicinity of the MAS, addressing people had little or no effect.
“From 1:00 AM onwards, the order was given to round up groups of more than four people and to confiscate portable speakers. Afterwards, a number of people from the Leopold de Waelplaats went to the Scheldt quays.”
In the end, police drew up 10 official reports at the MAS for violations of coronavirus measures, and three portable speakers were confiscated for one month: one at the MAS, one at the Leopold de Waelplaats and one at the Mechelseplein.
Similar issues arose on Saturday night after bars and restaurants closed, with large numbers of people gathering on the Leopold De Waelplaats in violation of coronavirus measures, including a group of about 100 people and a second group with about 200.
Smaller gatherings were found on the Mechelseplein and the Dageraadplaats.
Police say the mandatory closing times for bars and restaurants encourage these types of nuisances.
“We can see that the Covid-19 measures with respect to the catering industry are having an impact on nuisance,” police said.
“Whereas in the past we observed large crowds in the squares after 10:00 PM, we now notice that this shifts to 11:30 P.M.”
On a few occasions, a glass bottle from the crowd was thrown at the police. During the night from Saturday to Sunday, police officers were physically attacked twice.
“One of them got beer from a full glass in his face and another colleague sustained a minor injury to his leg, which has left him unable to work for a short time,” police said.
“Five troublemakers were arrested for disturbing the public order. They were drunk and aggressive towards our officers, or posed a danger to themselves and/or bystanders.”