In reaction to a soon-to-be-lodged complaint by several NGOs against the presence of soldiers in the streets, representatives of the Jewish community and of police forces insist on Tuesday that enhanced protection by the military or the police is still needed for as long as a level 3 security alert is in place for buildings at risk. Brussels alderman Yvan Mayeur reminds people that, just like most other aldermen, “he did not ask to have soldiers patrolling the streets. We requested additional an additional police presence but there is no budget available. The government chose to send soldiers instead of mobilising additional police officers.”
The city authorities had to agree faced with the absence of any alternative: “When the security alert system reaches level 3, enhanced protection is obviously needed. But we will need more resources if the police are to take over protection of sites currently covered by the military.”
Peter De Waele, spokesperson for the federal police that are often used to support local police forces, reckons that “we are collaborating very well with the military under the command of local police authorities. They are in charge of keeping watch on certain sites so we don’t have to deploy police officers. This frees personnel for other duties. A great proportion of the federal judicial police are focussed on investigating potential terrorist activities. This is a very important investment in police observation at a level 3 risk alert.”
Several Jewish institutions are under enhanced protection. Serge Rozen, president of CCOJB (coordinating committee for Jewish organisations in Belgium) approved the continuation of military presence but says “it is for the government to decide whether soldiers add value compared to policemen. Psychologically, it is obvious that the Jewish community feels reassured thanks to the military presence.”
Joel Rubinfeld, president of LBCA (Belgian league against anti-Semitism) agrees: “I am convinced the military presence on the streets has already averted attacks. The soldiers are not a threat, but a protection against threats. Of course, we would all prefer for there to be no need for military or police reinforcements.” At the beginning of April the security alert went from level 3 to level 2 (out of 4), with the exception of certain buildings deemed still at risk.