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More calls for merger of Brussels police zones

15:02 17/03/2024

The Groen and Ecolo political parties are the latest to voice support for merging Brussels’ six police zones, arguing it would increase efficiency as the city works to address rising violence linked to drug trafficking.

While Flemish-speaking parties have long supported a merger, all of the French-speaking ones – apart from Ecolo, now – continue to reject the idea, seeing it as the beginning of a larger merger of the 19 Brussels municipalities, which some Flemish parties support, that could undermine mayoral power.

“We’ll gain from more structured coordination than we have today,” said Ecolo co-president Rajae Maouane.

“Why do we need six police chiefs? Just one will be able to see the needs of the region. It will cost less, too.”

Brussels minister-president Rudi Vervoort (PS) has the authority to create a centralised command of the police zones, according to Naji, but Vervoort does not support the idea.

“Merging won't solve our staffing shortages anyway, so I think that's an illusion,” Vervoort said.

“In terms of efficiency and responsiveness, if you look at the crime figures over the last 10 years, they are constantly falling, apart from certain incidents linked directly or indirectly to drug trafficking.”

The vast majority of police unions are also opposed to a merger. Belgium’s interior minister, Annelies Verlinden (CD&V), wants larger police zones (with at least 500 police officers), which would enable more specialised assistance to be provided.

“For us, the main and fundamental issue is to ensure the safety of everyone in our neighbourhoods – you have the same rights to safety whether you live in Uccle or Molenbeek,” said Ecolo co-president Nadia Naji.

“Ecolo and Groen have joined forces to set up a regional headquarters. This command centre would enable greater coordination to deal with these security issues, which would eventually lead to a merger of police areas.

"It's not a merger tomorrow, it's not the only answer to the security problems we're facing, but it could be one of the possible solutions."

Written by Helen Lyons