The cabinet will spend the proceeds of confiscated criminal premises in Schiedam to set up a learning workplace for young people in the same city. This year, the plan is to also use criminal money confiscated in other places in neighborhoods where there is or was a lot of criminal activity. In Italy, the method has been used for years.
In the Gorzen area, the project will start “in a few months”, according to the Ministry of Justice and Security. It is the first project to be funded with confiscated criminal assets since the cabinet made coalition agreements on this in 2021. It is unclear exactly how much money is involved in Schiedam.
Criminologist and economist Joras Ferwerda of Utrecht University calls it an interesting development. He also investigates money laundering. The idea of reinvesting confiscated criminal money in society falls under so-called ‘restorative justice’, he says. “It is said: current criminal law is mainly aimed at perpetrators, but more attention must be paid to the victim.” An example of this in the Netherlands is the right to speak in court for victims and their relatives.
Mafia boss’s house turns into a nursery or community center
And now there will also be projects in which the collected money will flow back into the neighbourhoods. After evaluation of the projects, it is the intention that a fixed arrangement will be drawn up for this. Up to 5 million euros per year has been reserved for this.
“This is new in the Netherlands, but this has already been actively done in Italy,” says Ferwerda. This was an effective tool, especially when tackling the mafia, he says. “Then, for example, a building belonging to a mafia boss was turned into a community center or crèche. It was a means of showing a neighborhood that was controlled by the mafia: the mafia is no longer so powerful, the state is taking it back.”
Ferwerda is curious whether the approach in the Netherlands has the same effect as in Italy. “The hope is that you will make a social impact and that the neighborhood will think differently about the fight between organized crime and the judiciary.”
Because also in the Netherlands there are criminals in some neighborhoods who are influential in their neighborhood, he says, for example by financially supporting amateur clubs or with other social activities in a neighborhood. “For example, criminals tried to build status and a social system in which the neighborhood covers them a bit.”
Weed plantations rolled up
According to research by RTL Nieuws, Schiedam, where the project is being launched, runs a relatively high risk of falling under the grip of organized crime. The municipality is in sixth place in the so-called underworld map. But resident Martin Stolk denies that the neighborhood De Gorzen where the apprenticeship will be located is very criminal.
He has lived in the area for about forty years and runs the Stichting Jongeren & Senioren together with Mieke Wigmans. “A number of cannabis plantations were rolled up a while ago,” he says. “And occasionally you have some young people hanging out on the street that you hear something about. But in general things are not too bad in the neighborhood.”
No drug house
The Stolk foundation is one of the partners in the learning workplace that is being set up. Young people can, for example, shadow two hairdressers or learn to cook for seniors in the neighbourhood. Stolk was “terribly excited” when he heard that confiscated criminal money would be used for this initiative. “But the fact that it is presented so grandly nationally does give some pressure.”
The learning workplace in Schiedam will not be located in a building that was used by criminals, but in an old community building, Stolk emphasises. “It is not a drug house. It has a good reputation in the neighborhood.”
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