Monday, February 14, 2005

Living safely

The hous on the Zuilense Nijenrodeplantsoen (Utrecht)Here a story of a multi cultural neighborhood in the city of Utrecht:

After stones through the windows, a burning car driven against the house and two arson attacks, the house at the Nijenrodeplantsoen in the Zuilense neighborhood of the city of Utrecht is still empty. The last tenant, a woman of 34 has fled the city of Utrecht. In her new house in a small village, far away from Zuilen [neighborhood in the city of Utrecht], she now tells her story.

I am still scared, still nervous when I walk through my new house. And I am angry. I feel abandoned. Why did they not listen to me?

In 1999 I came to the house in Zuilen. The man, who had hired the house before me, was stabbed just before the front door. That I had to hear from my neighbors. Mitros [the semi government social housing service] and the police didn’t tell me. If you know what happened here, you would not give this house to a mother with two children, would you? The first year I lived here, not much happened. Some times there was a group of Moroccan youth in front of my door.

Some times they where with five, some times with twenty, but I could talk with them. When my children would go to bed, they moved to a spot down the road. It all went wrong, when the group’s composition changed. The older boys left and new younger boys took their place.

It started with abusive language. They said the most horrendous things too me. After that the vandalism started. Throwing mud, latter eggs on the windows. Around new year, the put firework through my letterbox opening in the front door. From the gallery above, they threw garbage bags in my garden. At times there where ten of them banging on my back yard fence. And a lot of theft took place. I lost my video recorder, wallet and a bicycle. It was also a horror for my children. They had no friends, were called names, got kicked and punched. Rocks were thrown to them and their bikes where trashed. They where pestered and driven out of the playground. I could not provide security to my children, not even in my own house. That’s the worst thing that can happen for a mother.

Later the eggs became stones. And those did go through the windows, even when I was at home. Once I grabbed such a little punk, but I had to take punches from an older boy. I had to let him go, I did not wanted to be totally beat-up by them. It became a campaign, only directed against me. Why? If I talked to them, they told me they wanted a youth center. Apparently my house was a very suitable location for that. Maybe they had to have me, because I, unlike my neighbors, filled charges of the vandalism and burglary.

They saw the police officers at my house and would later retaliate. I tried to talk to the parents of the boys. From others (via, via), I came to know their addresses and visited them. But suddenly these people didn’t speak Dutch any more.

With New Year, two years ago, it went totally out of control. A small, curtain at an open window, was put on fire. At that moment I was already busy moving out, I could not take it any more. Later they even threw a Molotov cocktail, via the rear, in the house. I was just lucky, that the carpeting and furniture was already removed at that moment. Otherwise my whole house would have been burned to the ground.

Socialist alderman SpekmanOf course I went to the police and filed charges. But nothing happened. You had to sit for hours on the police station, but nothing happened. Mitros has made the most mistakes. I told them I wanted to move as soon as possible to an other house, but according to the police and Mitros the situation was initially not serious enough. Even a conversation with alderman Spekman (Socialist –PvdA) did not change anything. In August they finally offered me this house [all cheap housing in Holland is government regulated]. I did not had to think a second about it, although I am born in Utrecht, I just wanted to flea this city. I am relieved that I got a new start here. A quite neighborhood with normal neighbors. If I am in Utrecht, I duck if I see familiar faces. I warn my children for groups of Moroccan youth and if I see them my self, I take a walk.

I try not to discriminate. That is hard, but I think I do fine. I have very nice Moroccan neighbors above me. You cannot generalize them all together. One of the reasons that I tell this story is that my old neighbors are still in the same situation. They are scared. I am certain that in other neighborhoods, there are people in the same situation. I don’t think I was the only one. No, I know that fore sure.


The local politicians:

liberal (VVD) Halbe ZijlstraHalbe Zijlsta, local Liberal party (VVD) leader:
“This is totally unacceptable. A few years a go it was in the Schaakwijk neighborhood and now in Nijenrodeplantsoen. I say: kick some ass. Literally. Who does want not listen has to feel it. That is also in the interest of the local Moroccan community, they see it coming: again Moroccan youngsters. I expect the burgomaster to act tough now. We do not accept it again, if they want to send more social workers. That would be a rearward for them. In the mean while, there should come a mobile police post in front of the house.”

Leefbaar Utrecht, Vincent OldenborgVincent Oldenborg, local party ‘leefbaar Utrecht’ leader:
“I walk each day past that empty house, but I did not know what happened there. But now that I know, I think an educational punch would be in order here. Sure the ministry does not allow it and child abuse is also not allowed but I believe a big educational punch would be help full here. Apprehend them and take them to the police station, that way parents can’t say their children aren’t involved. I think, this should be solved via the parents.”

Socialist (PvdA), Rinda den BestenRinda den Besten, local Socialist (PvdA) leader:
“This story about nuisance in [neighborhood] Zuilen is not new. In the past the municipality has hand out money to do nice thinks, but that apparently does not help. The situation at the Nijenrodeplantsoen has become preposterous. We have to force change. If this continues, you can expect more families to leave. If the neighborhood wants a Moroccan family in the house and that would solve the problem, then Mitros should make that possible. It doesn’t sound well, but the problem is, that the Moroccan youth has no places to go to. That is a complex problem, for which are no easy solutions. "

Communist (SP) Kars BoersKars Boers, town councilor for the Communists (SP):
“That house is a target for those boys, I’ve seen it with my own eyes. It is ridiculous that the police say that we all should take care of this city to getter. The police just has to react directly when people call them, and after an hour. The police can’t fool the people. The people see, that they don’t do anything. Should a whole neighborhood bow for these boys? No, the police should show who is the boss.”

Greener (Groenlinks) Robert GiesbertsRobert Giesberts, town councilor for the Greens (Groenlinks):
“I want to acknowledge that there is street terror in that neighborhood, but what I miss totally in this story is the youth social workers. While youth workers are needed very badly. It is also important to have soon more hangout places. I agree with the police that people should file charges, although the police might use that to blur that they have not done enough.”

National Politics

But also the national politics reacts, Conservative Representative Geert Wilders, is going to ask parliamentary questions about the affair. He want to know if it is true that due to street terror a mother of two children had to flee the city and why the police did not acted more firmly. But also questions if burgomaster Brouwer has done enough to stop the street terror.

Representative Geert Wilders, used to have his domicile in the city of Utrecht, but had to leave due to safety concerns. In the past he has called the neighborhood where he lived the worst place to live in The Netherlands...


This is not the first time stories like these reach the press, they seem to represent some of the problems in the big city neighborhoods.

H/T: Dutch Disease Report

Sources: Utrechts Nieuwsblad (1), Utechts Nieuwsblad (2), fok, RTV Utrecht

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