Rural areas remain attractive for criminals

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Veenendaal – Abuses with permits, stolen goods, a cannabis farm in a home and closure of a catering business. These were some concrete results of a special theme week from October 30 to November 5 in the territory of the municipalities of Veenendaal, Rhenen, Wijk bij Duurstede, Renswoude and Utrechtse Heuvelrug around organized crime.

The rural area remains attractive to criminals due to its remote location. ‘Our area is vulnerable. We find drug labs and cannabis farms in the countryside and know that our infrastructure is used for drug transports,” say police team leaders Jan Verbeek and Serena Renes of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug basic team.

Both team leaders emphasize the importance of the special theme week. ‘Making residents aware of the dangers of drug trafficking was an important goal this week. Together we will take a stand against organized crime,” said Jan Verbeek and Serena Renes.

The awareness week was therefore a joint initiative of the police, the Public Prosecution Service, the Regional Information and Expertise Center (RIEC), the tax authorities, UWV, the Safe Living Platform and the five municipalities.

The meetings on subversion in rural areas in Rhenen and Wijk bij Duurstede were well attended. It was about recognizing suspicious situations and especially reporting them. Signals were also collected on site that the police and municipalities can use. According to Mayor Hans van der Pas of the municipality of Rhenen, residents in the rural areas are regularly victims of undermining. Criminals tempt residents with attractive offers to rent out sheds and sheds. ‚ÄúRemember, you only get one chance to say no. Once you’re involved, there’s often no turning back.’

Catering inspections
In the week of the undermining, additional comprehensive checks were also carried out in the catering industry. The approach was whether companies comply with the applicable laws and regulations. Criminals misuse permits, for example to launder money or for other illegal activities. These checks took place in Wijk bij Duurstede, Utrechtse Heuvelrug, Veenendaal and Renswoude. In Wijk bij Duurstede, the police found a cannabis farm in a home. This was cleared immediately. Various delivery and takeaway restaurants were also checked, with one business being closed due to the lack of a current permit. Violations have also been observed in the context of the Aliens Employment Act, such as the lack of a manager and minors working alone. Mayor Frits Naafs of Utrechtse Heuvelrug: ‘By consistently tackling abuses in the catering industry, municipalities contribute to a safe living and business climate.’

Transport sector
The transport sector is also sensitive to illegal practices. In recent weeks, the police’s Heuvelrug Basic Team found several illegal goods at companies active in the transport sector. On November 2, checks were carried out on trucks, vans and other vehicles. This involved overloading, failure to show valid papers, a different load than stated on the consignment note and an arrest for drug use while driving. ‘We are so well organized in the Netherlands with our infrastructure and activities that criminals know how to use it skillfully. That is why we monitor the transport sector and also enter into discussions with them about the dangers of undermining,” says mayor Gert-Jan Kats of the municipality of Veenendaal.

The joint approach to organized crime also tries to prevent young people from ending up in crime. Mayor Petra Doornenbal of the municipality of Renswoude sees that (drug) criminals recruit young people at a very young age. ‘Young people are often naive or want to fit in. We must stop this in a timely manner by being alert to this together. We do this by entering into preventive discussions with young people and actively warning them about criminal practices.’

Integrated Safety Plan
The collaboration between police, municipalities and other partners goes further than this week. The Integrated Safety Plan (IVP) has been renewed for the period 2023-2026 and includes joint efforts to achieve the goals. Mayor Iris Meerts of the municipality of Wijk bij Duurstede emphasizes the importance of this collaboration. ‘Not only last week, but continuously we carry out actions to prevent undermining. Collaboration is important. That makes us strong in the fight against crime.’

Do you see anything suspicious?
If you see something that you believe is incorrect, please report it via 0900-8844. You can also report anonymously via report crime anonymously or via 0800-7000.

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