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Netherlands Shuts Down Prisons Due to Lack of Criminals

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Netherlands Shuts Down Prisons Due to Lack of Criminals

While the early 1990’s saw an increase in crimes occurring in the Netherlands; in 2009 the crime level had dropped to a record low that the Dutch justice ministry has decided to close 8 prisons, cutting off 1,200 jobs within the prison. Low crime rates have led to an overcapacity in the country’s jails; with them now housing 12,000 detainees, although the capacity is for 14,000.

Main kinds of crime

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The Netherlands are recognized as one of the safest countries in which to live in the world. Hardly any violent crime occurs, although due to the tourism industry, tourists are still often the target of pickpockets and bag snatchers. Occasionally, thieves may even end up breaking in hotel rooms and even cars.

Anyone visiting the Netherlands should practice precaution and alertness, instead of being complacent about its low crime rates. Theft occurs mostly on public transportation systems, including the tram and trains, especially to and from the airport.

Every year since 2004 has seen a drop in crimes in the Netherlands, with 167,100 criminal cases registered in 2011, 13% lower than the previous year. Traffic offenses which include speeding and parking cases, have also continued to drop consistently. Bike theft has also been a predominant problem which Dutch authorities continue to work on, with over 750,000 bikes stolen each year due to the country’s large bike ownership. In order to resolve bike theft, authorities have included new measures such as installing a chip in each one, and registering each in a bike registry.

Crime Prevention Systems

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Due to the increase of theft, vandalism, fare dodging, and other petty crimes in the country during the 1980’s, the Dutch underground system and train stations modified their entry systems so that every single passenger had to go through the bus driver, and present their tickets. This system reduced the occurrence of fare dodging by more than 50%, and also greatly reduced the incidences of vandalism.

Furthermore, the government and local officials carried out projects and experiments in crime prevention during the 1980’s to see what would help bring down the rising numbers in crime, which had proven successful. At that time, it was evident that truants had a higher tendency to contribute to crime and other forms of delinquent behavior. A project was carried out to determine the effect of additional supervision to reduce the overall number of truants. Through a truancy registration system, each child who was absent from school was reported to their parents, by way of the school calling the parents directly. School counselors were then put in charge of monitoring the school’s disciplinary functions and truant students, as they discussed with teachers how to handle these students. In order to release the truants back into the school system as smoothly as possible, the schools also created special classes supervised by teachers who specialized in technical skills. This project resulted in a dramatic decrease as well in the number of truants per school, as well as helping establish a stronger bond between the institution and the student.

In order to deal with theft and vandalism in shopping establishments, another project in crime prevention was carried out consisting of the following practices:

  • Establishing the presence of two security men who provide assistance to storeowners and the public at any time;
  • Instructions to storeowners on how to handle theft;
  • Installation of new electronic alarms to warn them whenever theft occurred;
  • Unconventional methods of consequence, including special court sessions for vandals found guilty.

This project was another successful feat in the Dutch crime prevention projects; reducing the number of theft within shops as well as in the public. Additionally, one of the long-term benefits of the project found that shopkeepers eventually even saved more money than the cost altogether of hiring two security guards.

Overpopulation in prison cells in Belgium

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On the other hand, neighboring country Belgium is experiencing overpopulation in its prison cells. Belgium’s prisons are currently occupied by 10,400 detainees, which is twice more than its limit. To compensate for this, Belgium and the Netherlands are seen to possibly enter an agreement allowing Belgium to rent space for 500 Belgian prisoners for 3 years. An amount of $38.5 million will be paid to the Netherlands for the rent. While it has been arranged that Dutch wards will be guarding the prisoners, it is official that a Belgian will be hired to oversee and direct the prison.

However, the agreement still needs to sort out certain issues, such as the frequency of visits from family and friends the detainees may have.

Fines in the Dutch crime system

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There are 3 types of main penalties which can be ordered by a court for specific types of crimes: custodial service, fines, and community service. Custodial sentence is the penalty for those who are guilty of minor offenses for which criminal records are unnecessary.  Custodial sentences can be fulfilled either through temporary or life imprisonment. Temporary imprisonment could be as short as one day, or as long as 30 years.

Most Dutch criminals are fined with fixed penalty rates, especially those who are guilty of noise pollution and traffic offenses. The Netherlands classifies offenses into one of 6 categories, each with a varying amount of fines attached to it; and this scale is adjusted every two years. In cases where offenders have seized goods from the crime, Dutch authorities may confiscate it as it falls into crime-related assets, and which may include automobiles, houses, or other types of assets. Other minor offenses are dealt with community service, which is generally unpaid work serving the local community such as the removal of vandalism.

Under Dutch law, repeat offenders will receive more serious consequences. If criminals are found guilty of more than 10 offenses within the last 5 years, they may be required to face custodial sentences for as long as two years with additional psychological treatment to reduce recurrences once the sentence is over.

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