War on drugs: Antwerp launches ‘largest security operation in 20 years’ 
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War on drugs: Antwerp launches ‘largest security operation in 20 years’ 

Credit: Belga

The Antwerp police will launch what they call the largest security operation in the past 20 years against organised drugs crime, Operation Night Watch, on Friday.

The mayor of the City of Antwerp, Bart De Wever, whose drug policy in the city has repeatedly been called a ‘war on drugs’, reacted to the many attacks in the drug environment in recent weeks in the districts of Borgerhout and Deurne, by announcing a large-scale and long-term action to tackle the feeling of insecurity, reports ATV.

“Over a longer period of time, we will carry out daily visible and less visible actions to discourage these problems as much as possible,” chief of the Antwerp police Serge Muyters told De Morgen. “This action will be our absolute priority.”

“Our biggest fear is that innocent people would be killed. We have been lucky in that regard, recently. It has been an important wake-up call,” De Wever said. “We and the police have always responded administratively in previous incidents. But as the recent incidents are of a nature and order that we have never seen before, our response will be the same.”

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The main focus of the operation will be the drugs-related violence happening at night. Additional neighbourhood teams will be called in, extra police patrols will be set up, and streets may also be closed off to prevent attacks.

Systematic identity checks, first response teams to “dynamic patrols” on motorcycles, and additional activation of the drug support team are also part of the operation, as will the BearCats (the armoured vehicles) to protect the officers against heavily armed criminals, reports VRT.

“We are mobilising a great many people,” said Muyters. “We are going to try to make it clear to the drug environment that they have gone too far.”

Since 2017, 66 grenade attacks or shooting incidents (presumably) related to drugs have already been counted in Antwerp, reports De Morgen.

According to De Wever, there are indications that these are conflicts that arise in the context of the import or sale of large batches of drugs, or power conflicts within the drug environment. People are rarely injured, but the aim may be both intimidation and drawing police attention to rival criminals.

The operation will start on Friday evening and will last at least a few months. “As long as necessary,” said Muyters.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times