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"Threats to VIPS in the Netherlands much more serious than in other European countries"

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Threats to VIPS in the Netherlands much more serious than in other European countries.

Security and protection for judges, politicians, lawyers, and journalists makes a substantial claim on police time. Edwin Bakker is the head of Knowledge and Research at the Netherlands Police Academy and professor of Terrorism Studies at Leiden University. In the podcast 'De Academie', issued on 1 January 2024, he points out that in the Netherlands the number of people subjected to threats is particularly high, and the nature of the threats is extremely serious. 

"It’s much worse than in other countries. Only Italy has a comparable level, but there the threat mainly comes from one specific direction: organized crime. In the Netherlands the threat comes from crime, but also from other directions. From that point of view, the Netherlands really does have a problem", Bakker comments.

In the same episode of the podcast, Willem Woelders, Director of Security and Protection with the Netherlands Police, says that the situation worsened considerably after the murder of the brother of the crown witness in the Marengo trial and the murder of the lawyer Derk Wiersum. "It became clear that we would have to provide protection not only for people where – to judge from intelligence – the risk of an attack was predictable, but also for those where an attack was conceivable. This immediately makes the target group a whole lot bigger. You have to assess the risks in a lot more cases, with little information to go on. But you do have to get protection in place. But the question then becomes when, and on what basis, do you scale back the protection again."

Local assessment of threat

Providing protection poses quite a challenge for the police and judicial authorities. In political circles they hold that what is needed is a national approach, but Bakker and Woelders respond that that is not feasible. Bakker: "We’re talking here not only about well-known people who are under threat, but also threatening situations at the local level – like an alderman being stalked, for instance. So we’re talking thousands of people. This calls for assessment at the local level, and decision-making by the local public prosecution service."

Can a threatened person walk their dog?

Security and protection generates a heavy workload. So in Edwin Bakker’s view, an increase in the number of police officers, and close cooperation with private parties are important initial measures. Woelders adds that it is also important to invest in better intelligence and modern technology, which will make it possible to operate more efficiently. "But we also need to have the discussion about how far protection should go. It cannot be the case, in my view, that a whole team of police officers have to be mobilized because a protected person wants to walk their dog in their free time. This is a sensitive issue, of course, but it’s something that does need to be discussed."

More information

  • Listen to 'De Academie' podcast about security and protection (in Dutch) in your favourite podcast app

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