Government and municipalities tackle possession of weapons among young people

The possession of weapons among young people is not normal. Weapons are forbidden. Nevertheless, stabbing incidents occur among young people. Once a knife is in someone’s pocket, they are more easily tempted to use it, with all the drastic consequences this entails. That is why the rules on weapons will be clarified, so that action can be taken more quickly if someone is caught in public with a household knife or other object that can be used as a stabbing weapon. In addition, a legislative proposal is being drafted to ban the sale of legal knives to minors. Municipalities, secondary schools, the police and the Public Prosecution Service (OM) are working closely together to make young people and their parents aware of the risks of possession and use of weapons and to further reduce this by, for example, stop-and-search, locker checks at schools and a joint weapons amnesty campaign.

This is the gist of the Weapons and Youth action plan that Minister Grapperhaus of Justice and Security and Minister Dekker for Legal Protection sent to the House of Representatives today, also on behalf of Minister Slob for Primary and Secondary Education and Media. The action plan was drawn up jointly with 15 involved municipalities, the OM, the police, the HALT Bureau, the William Schrikker Foundation for Youth Rehabilitation and Protection, the Child Care and Protection Board, the Association of Netherlands Municipalities and the Centre for Crime Prevention and Public Safety.

With the action plan, the participating parties are joining forces against armed violence and the possession of weapons among young people. All parties share the view that the possession and use of weapons should never be considered normal and have the ambition to reverse the possession of weapons among young people. The starting point for the approach is that the parties have a good idea of which young people and youth gangs carry weapons. Subsequently, it is of great importance that all parties involved – schools, municipal youth and welfare workers, the hospitality industry, the police and the OM – cooperate well in this approach and that the government supports and strengthens the approach through national measures.

Comprehensive approach

The action plan has a comprehensive approach and includes preventive as well as proactive and repressive measures. The preventive measures will consist of awareness-raising and discouragement through campaigns against the possession of weapons among young people and their social environment. Guest lessons at school taught by, for example, a public prosecutor and information provided by the HALT Bureau will also contribute to this. Municipalities and the police will provide an easily accessible point of contact at schools – for example, a weekly consultation hour staffed by a community team member, school youth worker or community police officer – for young people who feel threatened. This will also prevent school-aged young people from thinking that it is helpful to arm themselves.

Proactive and repressive measures that reduce and make the possession and use of weapons more difficult will include national measures, such as the ban on selling legal knives to minors. However, legislation to facilitate this takes time. That is why the Ministry of Justice and Security is consulting with major retailers on how to prevent the sale of legal knives – such as kitchen knives – to minors in the meantime.

Furthermore, schools will be given the power to carry out locker checks locally in consultation with the police and the municipality. In addition, the OM, the police and the Ministry of Justice and Security are preparing a weapons amnesty campaign in 2021 in all municipalities involved, accompanied by information about the risks posed by the possession of weapons. At the local level, municipalities will be able to designate areas where stop-and-search should be used to reduce the possession of weapons. The action plan has a duration of two years.