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Policing New Year’s Eve celebrations calls for timely preparations and close collaboration

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Policing New Year’s Eve celebrations calls for timely preparations and close collaboration

If you look at recurring issues during the annual New Year’s Eve celebrations, three things stand out. There are problems to do with alcohol use – similar to those that occur around pubs and clubs every weekend. Added to that, you see people making the most of the opportunity to get up to no good. It’s a time for settling scores – people who are already at loggerheads, but now things get out of hand: a firecracker through the letterbox, or a brick through the window. And the third thing is the tradition of letting off fireworks, building bonfires, and making a lot of noise. And this kind of trouble is the hardest to tackle.

Each of these three things calls for a different approach

Matters differ from one place to another. One striking aspect is that the problems generally involve native Dutch residents – mainly in villages (sometimes dominated by strict Reformed Church communities) and in working-class neighbourhoods in the large cities. Those are the areas with the highest figures for incidents and trouble. So you have to really look at what the problems are in your own specific area, and choose your measures accordingly.

Make sure to start making preparations in good time

​It used to be only the police who were active during the New Year’s Eve celebrations. But in fact it’s important to collaborate with all the parties involved, so also with the municipal authorities, youth workers, and residents. What measures fit best in our area? Try to make a break with certain traditions, by promoting other variants, for instance. And take measures to prevent certain opportunities for people to get up to no good. Some stubborn spots remain, where people are determined to hold firm to their ways of doing things.

The number of incidents during the New Year’s festivities will never be reduced to zero. However, in the places where we carried out research for three years we did note that things got out of hand less often, or not at all – precisely due to the police collaborating effectively, making timely preparations, offering alternatives, and making agreements.

Why did the Netherlands Police Academy carry out research on the New Year’s Eve celebrations?

Initially people wondered why the Netherlands Police Academy would be interested in doing research into the New Year’s festivities. But if you draw up a list of all the problems associated with these festivities, you see that it’s really not normal. We also conducted research into the police approach during the New Year’s celebrations in specific areas, chosen on the basis of how often incidents are reported there in the media. So the research did flag up the fact that the New Year’s Eve celebrations, with all the associated incidents, damage, and violence, were actually a problem. This research changed the perception that it was all just an integral part of New Year’s Eve.

Are fireworks an integral part of the New Year’s festivities?​

That’s still a matter of debate. But banning them is not the solution. Because a lot of fireworks are already illegal, but they haven’t gone away. Fireworks have enormous appeal. So now we have a whole patchwork quilt of measures, like firework-free zones. But there are all sorts of reasons not to be happy with fireworks. Heavier explosives are being used, and fireworks are employed as weapons against first responders. So they contribute to unsafety.

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