Practical Advice: Police Services in the Netherlands
A sensitive subject
Although crime in the Netherlands is significantly lower than in a lot of places it does still happen, despite a continued decline for most areas in recent years. The most common forms of crime here are 'property crimes’, which include things like theft or fraud. Rather than feeling helpless should something happen to you, instead you should feel empowered with information to pursue a resolution to whatever has occurred. This article will take you through some options you can take if you happen to be the victim of a crime or know somebody who is.
If you are abroad, but your family member or loved one lives in the Netherlands and you cannot make contact with them or people they know, you can follow the directions at this link on how to proceed. Note that unlike in other cases, you are advised to contact either the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the embassy of the person you are looking for. For those planning to come here, please be sure to inform someone among your family and friends back home of important information in case of an emergency, such as your local Dutch phone number, medications you are currently taking, the address where you will be staying in the Netherlands and who to contact in the Netherlands if they cannot reach you. It is also good to provide copies of important documents, such as your passport, to a person you trust, both in case you cannot be reached and in case those documents get lost or destroyed.
Calling the police
In the Netherlands, depending on the circle you are in, the attitude tends to be that you must be self-sufficient as an individual and take care of things yourself as much as possible before using up public resources. This means that before you call the police or involve authorities, you have to think very hard about whether you cannot actually take care of a problem yourself peacefully and require assistance. For example, if your neighbour is having a party, the police will generally refuse to come out and speak with them if you have not made an attempt to ask them to keep the noise down yourself, with few exceptions. In this sense, it is difficult to use public authorities against other people for trivial disputes. Also, police may not have the power to intervene in certain situations. To see what kinds of powers police have in the Netherlands, you can look here.
Let's say you have decided that it is necessary to involve the police. The number for all emergency services in the Netherlands, including for an ambulance, the fire brigade or another emergency department, is ‘112’. This number is only for truly life-threatening situations. Emergency service personnel and police here have a reputation for being relatively relaxed about a lot of situations and crimes and will often not do much if you contact them via the emergency number for something that they themselves feel is non-life threatening or an emergency, no matter how frustrating or uncomfortable it may be for you, so you must plead your case. Regardless of this lax attitude, Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences urges anybody who has been the victim of a crime or offence to ignore any social stigma and contact the authorities for the sake of your own safety and well-being. If you have a concern which isn't immediately life-threatening or an emergency, you should use the number, ‘0900 8844’ to speak to police. You can find more information about reporting a non-life-threatening crime via phone, internet or in person at this link. There are also often ‘Buurt Preventie’ (Neighbourhood Watch) groups which operate via WhatsApp. You may see signs for these around the neighbourhood as you walk around the area. If there is no Buurt Preventie in your area, you may also create one yourself; for more information on that, check out this website.
Note that you cannot report a crime anonymously, but you can provide information anonymously. Just don't give details which would identify yourself when you provide the information.
Filing a report or providing information
Furthermore, after calling the police, you have to make sure you directly tell them you would like to file a report, and be adamant about it, even if they don't feel the need. This can be difficult sometimes, especially if you happen to suffer a crime while intoxicated, or you are traumatised. But if you do not make sure to do this, they will not take time to write a report, and may not even record that they came out when you called them. If you can, make sure to collect evidence that they were called, that you spoke with them and that you requested a report be made.
If you have come to the conclusion that you would like to see a criminal report lead to charges and prosecution, you must pursue it rigorously. Unlike in other countries where police work tends to be done by the people paid to be police, Dutch police will often make you responsible for a portion of the investigation, such as identifying witnesses or finding where surveillance cameras are. This is quite daunting for some, particularly if you have gone through a traumatic experience. If you need support while filing a report or proceeding with a case, you can look here for help with all kinds of crime, including support for those dealing with emotional distress. For help with sexual crimes specifically, you can find more information here.
Wittenborg is confident that your time in the Netherlands will be a peaceful and positive experience, as indeed it is for most people who come here. No matter what happens, you should feel supported by your community as well as by Dutch authorities. We hope any who become the victims of a crime much strength and wish them the perseverance they need to report their offenders.
by Olivia Nelson