A better picture of the resilience of local authorities to subversive crime

Mayors, aldermen, councillors and municipal officials are often confronted with attempts to exert criminal influence on the course of their work. In the coming period, the Ministry of Security and Justice and the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations will be organising expert sessions with mayors, the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG), King’s Commissioners, academics and professional associations in local government to gain a better picture of the problem and to increase resilience to subversive crime.

This is the content of a letter sent by Minister Blok of Security and Justice and Minister Plasterk of the Interior and Kingdom Relations to the House of Representatives. The expert sessions are a follow-up to the first study on ‘The nature and scope of the influence exercised by criminals over local public administration’, carried out by the agency Pro Facto on behalf of the Research and Documentation Centre (WODC). This survey, conducted among almost 4,000 mayors, aldermen, councillors and civil servants, provides a first indication of the nature and scope of the problems regarding threats, bribery and infiltration in local government. Both ministers consider it important that these results be further examined.

The researchers conclude that there is no large-scale influencing and that it cannot be established what impact this has on national security. The survey shows that criminals attempt to influence administrators, councillors and civil servants in both large and small municipalities. In this sense, the issue can be defined as a national problem that is not confined to specific provinces. The general view is that attempts to exert criminal influence constitute a real issue.

Mayors, particularly in the larger municipalities, have most frequently reported threats of a criminal nature, whereby this involves (anonymous) verbal threats. In fact, almost a quarter (24%) of the 225 interviewed mayors has made such a report. The cited threats of physical violence have not been put into practice insofar as the researchers have been able to establish.

Of all respondents, 1% has received threats of a criminal nature whereby this exerted an influence on decision making (processes). Bribery is mentioned much less frequently or not at all. Examples and suspicions of infiltration by an official for a criminal purpose were reported in 8% of the municipalities. The respondents also state that existing measures for making local government resilient to criminal subversion could be applied more intensively.

This summer, Minister Plasterk wrote to the House of Representatives stating that, in consultation with the professional associations and representative organisations of political office holders, the tackling of intimidation, violence and integrity issues is to be continued in the ‘Resilient Government’ (Weerbaar Bestuur) network. This letter indicated that there not so much a need for investment to create more instruments but rather for ensuring, on a joint basis, the most effective application and further development of these. The expert sessions are line with this approach.