Brussels is 'weakest link' in Europe’s fight against terrorism
The complexity of the police and political structures in Brussels is a large part of why Belgium has supplied more jihad fighters to IS than any other country, according to federal home affairs minister Jan Jambon.
According to figures from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, Belgium has supplied 40 fighters per million inhabitants to fighting in Syria and Iraq – more than any other European country. Denmark comes a distant second place, with 27 fighters per million.
According to Jambon, speaking at a debate this week organised by Politico, Brussels is the weakest link in the fight against radicalisation. Whereas authorities in some cities affected, such as Vilvoorde and Mechelen, have a good grip on the problem, Brussels does not, largely as a result of the capital’s structure, with its 19 municipalities and six police zones for a relatively small city of 1.2 million people.
“How many police zones has New York, a city of 11 million people?” he asked. “One.” He also revealed that a terrorist plot broken up this year in Verviers was not, as previously thought, a planned major attack. The plotters, he said, had planned to kidnap one police officer, whom they intended to kill on video. “They only wanted to kill one person, but the action would spread panic not only in Belgium but all over Europe.” Two of the three men involved were shot dead in a raid; the third is in custody.
“The thing that keeps me awake at night is the guy behind his computer, looking for messages from IS and other hate preachers,” he said. He warned of the growing use by terror networks of the gaming console PlayStation 4, which allows terrorists to communicate with each other and is difficult for the authorities to monitor. “PlayStation 4 is even more difficult to keep track of than WhatsApp,” he said.
Photo courtesy Geert Renckens/Wikimedia
Why would one huge police zone be more efficient than 12 medium sized zone?
Smaller is better. Smaller is closer.
For starters, Belgium needs to invest immediately in CCTV -- especially in Brussels. Money needs to be spent on better training the police force and not relying on finding individuals who can speak French and Dutch. The old problem of a bilingual country has forced Belgium to lower its standards. The judicial system is terribly slow so court cases take 2-3 years whatever the case. Pickpockets, robbers, jihadists -- they all know Belgium is a "soft spot". Belgium likes to make rules but rarely follow them. Speed zones, left turn only -- the list goes on and never a contravention. People do what they want as they know they can get away with it.
New York City has one police department but 77 precincts which are geographic zones. If Brussels police zones operate autonomously without coordination as if they were separate departments, it's a management and communication issue that may not be solved just by merging them into one.