Drug Commissioner calls for the setting up of a Spanish-style "drug fund”
In an interview with VRT Radio 1’s morning news and current affairs programme ‘De ochtend’, the National Drugs Commissioner Ine Van Wymersch has said that close cooperation between all agencies is essential if the drug problem in Brussels is to be bought under control. Also essential is that sufficient staff and resources are provided. There is currently no money for this. However, Ms Wymersch suggest a "creative solution in the form of "drug fund" such as what currently exists in Spain. Through such a fund, the money that is confiscated from the criminals involved in the drugs trade must flow back to the judiciary, the police and social workers that deal with those whose lives have been ruined by drugs.
She added that “We have to tackle the drug problem at its roots". Ms Van Wymersch went onto say that focusing solely on enforcement will not solve the problem. "It makes no sense for the police to arrest users and then release them a few hours later, because the case isn’t strong enough for a prosecution”.
The Drugs Commissioner sees three areas that are important if we want to get the drug problem in Belgium under control: "Firstly, there is enforcement: the police and the judiciary. In addition to this assistance and prevention also play an important role. Finally, there is infrastructure. "
Ine Van Wymersch believes that focusing solely on enforcement is not the solution? "I think everyone realises that these people are in a vulnerable situation and that the solution will not only come from the police and the judiciary. Their role is to support those that offer help and assistance on the ground so that they can do their job in safety."
Extra money is needed to ensure that all the relevant agencies involved can do their job. "Everyone is asking for more staff and more resources. But there is not enough money available and so we have to be creative”, the Drug Commissioner said.
For example, she refers to Spain where they have a "drug fund". "The criminals’ money flows back through the fund to the agencies that help people with drug issues and also to the police and the judiciary."
The Drugs Commissioners’ office is currently examining, amongst other things, how such a fund would work here in Belgium. It will present the government and the National Security Council with its findings soon.
"If the proposal is included in the agreement between the parties that form the next government, we can start working on it during the next legislature and make structural changes."
Brussels-South and Brussels-North
In Brussels, crack in particular appears to be a major problem. "It’s the drug of the poor. They use it to escape reality for a while. But after the ‘high’ the ‘crash’ comes almost immediately."
This problem becomes painfully clear in and around the Brussels-South and Brussels-North railway stations. "Travellers often see people lying on the floor who are completely out of their mind. Long-term users also start to hallucinate and then wander around the corridors of the station in confusion."
The drug use often leads to crime. "It’s an addiction. People live from dose to dose and commit crimes to get to the next dose faster." Or they beg. "Because not all users end up committing crimes. But begging also causes nuisance in the station and its environs."
Ms Van Wymersch suggests adapting station buildings by for example reducing the number of points of entry/exit and reducing the number of places that might be attractive to dealers that wish to conceal drugs. She told VRT News that "We have asked Infrabel and NMBS to take a closer look at the infrastructure at the stations".