Minister Opstelten will deal more strictly with criminal youth groups

Minister Opstelten (Security and Justice) will deal more severely with criminal youth groups. Together with the Public Prosecution Service, the police and the municipalities, he has set the objective of ensuring that within two years all currently known criminal youth groups will have been dealt very harshly. In the coming period, he will also focus on the key figures within groups that cause nuisance, because these groups are often breeding grounds for criminal behaviour. Minister Opstelten has explained this objective today in a letter to the Lower House.

The Cabinet has placed the plans to deal with problematic youth groups high on the agenda. Since the end of 2009 the police forces have been carrying out nationwide efforts to map out all problematic youth groups and registered them in a uniform manner, on the basis of the so-called short list method of Bureau Beke. Towards the end of 2010, the Netherlands had 1527 problematic youth groups, 89 of which were categorised as ‘criminal’ and 284 as ‘causing nuisance’. It is time to deal with these groups in a very severe manner, now that they have been identified by the police, the Public Prosecution Service and the municipalities. In the next two years, Minister Opstelten will focus his efforts on criminal youth groups. After all, these groups cause the most serious forms of crime, the consequences of which are profound for the safety and the sense of security in society. In addition, the Minister will also devote attention to the key figures within the groups that cause nuisance, because these youth groups that cause nuisance are often breeding grounds for criminal behaviour.

The Minister, together with the Public Prosecution Service and the police, has set himself the target of ensuring that within two years these 89 known criminal youth groups will have been dealt with. The Public Prosecution Service will have the leading role as regards the criminal youth groups. The municipalities will have the leading role in dealing with groups that are bothersome and cause nuisance. By intensifying this approach in the coming years and by making capacity in the relevant parties available, the number of these groups will also be reduced further.

In order to support the cooperating organisations in their plans for action, the Minister has initiated the 'Action Programme on Criminal Youth Groups'. This programme focuses on improving the cooperation between all organisations involved, strengthening the exchange of information, and removing bottlenecks in implementation. For example, a national action team has been formed, ten regional coordinators will be appointed and a plan of action will be drawn up for each criminal youth group, whereby an offender-approach will be central. The action programme will also focus in the years to come on bundling the strengths of the various cooperating organisations, which will make it possible to link prevention, punishment and care, and it will become possible to provide custom solutions by combining instruments, so that each juvenile will receive a suitable punishment or measure. By means of the above measures Minister Opstelten intends to make the Netherlands a safer place. He concludes his letter by stating: "Together with the cooperating organisations and the professionals in the field, I intend in this manner to further embed and further develop the efforts to tackle criminal youth groups".