August 31, 2014

Police hands out criminal records at music festival

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 1:43 pm

Dutch prosecutors recently acquired the possibility of by-passing courts for minor offences if they can come to an agreement with suspects about a fine.

Placing the public prosecutor on the seat of the judge: what could possibly go wrong?

Two weeks ago at the Lowlands festival, the prosecutor wasn’t too eager to explain to suspects what exactly the consequences of their choices were, Vice reports. The 119 visitors out of 50,000 who had been charged with possession of recreational substances were not always told that agreeing to the so-called ‘strafbeschikking’ (‘declaration of punishment’) would get them a criminal record, nor what the consequences of a criminal record would be.

Vice asked lawyers Juriaan de Vries and Christian Flokstra what festival goers should do if a public prosecutor offers them an agreement. “Always ask for a lawyer!”

And of course that is a problem if your options are to pay a small fine on the spot (now with free criminal record!) or to go to jail for a night while a lawyers are being fetched from their weekend fishing trips and miss out on the festival. It seems the prosecutor knew exactly what they were doing. In the Netherlands a criminal record can prevent you from getting a job, effectively shutting off certain career paths.

The public prosecutor’s office responded (PDF) by saying they didn’t understand what all the hubbub was about—in their view the suspects retained plenty of rights and had even had some of those rights explained to them.

(Photo: DEA)

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June 2, 2014

Eric Slot’s murder atlas of Amsterdam

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 10:18 am


The idyllic scene you see above is part of what was the most murder-stricken street of Amsterdam in the 20th century according to Eric Slot, author of the book Moordatlas van Amsterdam, which was published in early May.

The street is called is Oudezijds Achterburgwal, located in Amsterdam’s red light district. It is the location of many a sex worker’s place of business which is why, when AT5 interviewed Slot about his book two weeks ago, the interview took place on the second most murderous street, Zeedijk—prostitutes are said to have an aversion to cameras.

The book is the culmination of two decades of studying murder in Amsterdam. It describes a thousand murders of the 1,800 or so that took place in Amsterdam since the year 1900.

According to the publisher the book “notes trends, characterises neighbourhoods, shows you which professions are dangerous and explains the popularity of the knife in Amsterdam Noord”, and more.

The Netherlands is one of the safest countries in the world when it comes to murder with ‘only’ one murder per 100,000 inhabitants a year, but Amsterdam is one of the most ‘dangerous’ capitals of Europe with 3.7 murders per 100,000 inhabitants.

The interview of AT5 with Slot is full of interesting titbits, including the fact that the inhabitants of Amsterdam themselves aren’t very violent—the problem usually stems from outsiders coming to the city. If you understand Dutch and have 30 minutes to spare, I suggest you watch it.

(Photo by Flickr user Taver, some rights reserved)

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January 18, 2014

Live top speeds on Dutch motorways

Filed under: Automobiles by Branko Collin @ 1:52 pm

best-wel-snelThe site taps into the National Data Warehouse for Traffic Information (NDW) to bring you the top speeds registered on Dutch motorways.

The NDW registers speeds using over 24,000 detection loop pairs spaced 2.5 metres apart. (the name means ‘quite fast’) displays three types of speeds: unconfirmed top speeds (grey), daily confirmed top speeds (green) and confirmed top speeds of all time (red, with all time meaning since 31 December 2013). A value counts as confirmed when it has been registered within the minute by two separate detection loop pairs that were no further than 5 kilometres apart.

In case you were wondering, the Netherlands does have a speed limit which varies depending on which stretch of motorway you are on, but the default (and highest limit) is 130 kilometres per hour. The values you see on all indicate speeding. The fine for going 39 kph over the speed limit on a motorway is 400 euro, if you go faster than that and get caught you have to appear before a judge.

This is an example of open data slowly getting more traction in the Netherlands—except in some cases it seems.

(Illustration: partial screen capture of

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May 26, 2013

Dutch criminals may get their bullets on the open market

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 6:48 pm

Even though gun possession is strictly controlled in the Netherlands, it seems criminals may still get their ammunition via largely legal channels.

In 2012 Marsha de Vries of the University of Twente looked at how criminals procured ammunition in the Netherlands. She found that the police had no evidence that ammunition was smuggled into the country in recent years or that many bullets were stolen from gun dealers, the army and the police: “When a burglary does occur, as in 2009 at a gun shop and shooting club in Amsterdam, firearms are generally the intended target, with ammunition only a secondary consideration. The average arms dealer does not hold large stocks of ammunition.”

Sports shooters in the Netherlands need to be able to show a certificate of good conduct, amongst others, before they can get a gun permit, but beyond that point it is difficult to control what they do with their ammunition once purchased. Unlike the United Kingdom and Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands allow permit holders to buy any amount of ammunition they want. Dutch traders do not register who buys what and sports shooters can spread out their purchases across traders.

De Vries writes:

The storage of firearms and ammunition by individuals is checked by a special department of the Dutch regional police forces. [The] police may, only with the permission of the licensee, check certain specifically defined places in the home of the licensee, i.e. the place where the weapons safe is located. If a sports shooter, hunter or collector states that a verification is inconvenient, a new appointment has to be made, giving him the opportunity to conceal any criminal activity. […]

Experts within and outside the police presume that the illegal trade in ammunition is a highly lucrative criminal activity with high yields and low risks, especially for sports shooters. A sport shooter commented: “It is not difficult to pilfer 2000 cartridges a year”. Another respondent, a former police officer and sports shooter, estimated his potential success on the criminal path even higher, noting: “I could purchase 150,000 to 200,000 cartridges in a week”.

According to De Vries, a short-term solution for making access to ammunition harder would be to introduce an automated registration system for arms dealers.

(Photo by Joe Loong, some rights reserved)

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September 19, 2012

Weed grower electrocuted in neighbour’s crawlspace

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 12:58 pm

Two weeks ago a man from De Meern near Utrecht was found dead in the crawlspace of his neighbour’s house.

According to the Utrecht police, the 46-year-old had electrocuted himself trying to steal his neighbour’s electricity. He had dug a tunnel underneath the foundation of both houses. The police had to cut out the neighbour’s floor to retrieve the corpse, which they believe had been lying there for no more than a day.

Parool adds that the man was a marijuana grower, which would explain why he had been looking for ways to lower his electricity bills, as weed growers use high powered lamps.

Earlier this year a 23-year-old weed grower from Oss in Noord Brabant was also electrocuted while working in his marijuana nursery.

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August 6, 2012

Bailiffs refuse to do bank’s dirty work in mortgage debt cases

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 8:59 am

Rabobank has been sued by a bailiff in Utrecht, GGN, because the bank tried to have it collect outstanding mortgage debts without a court order.

Last Friday the court announced it had asked the Dutch Supreme Court for advice.

The case seems to hinge on the fact that the contracts for the actual loans are of a different type than the mortgage contracts. The latter are drafted by a notary, which gives them greater weight. (The Dutch law speaks of ‘onderhandse akte’ and ‘bovenhandse akte’ respectively.)

Normally bailiffs are only allowed to force payment of a debt (by threatening to sell posessions or by actually selling them) with a court order. Apparently the ‘weightier’ type of contract confers the same power. Other bailiffs have also refused to execute Rabobank’s loan contracts. If Rabobank loses, it must secure a court order for every individual debt.

The case revolves only around debts for houses that have both already been sold and that have been sold for less than the market value. Rabobank admitted according to Z24 that this concerns about 100 cases each year.

Rabobank is one of the few major banks on the planet that wasn’t involved in the near-criminal subprime market that caused the global financial and economic crisis we are currently in, but you have to wonder if maybe it felt left out when you read this.

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July 23, 2012

Anti-piracy group caught pirating (surprise!)

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 9:01 am

Composer Melchior Rietveld won a court case against copyright collection agency Stemra last week over music he wrote for an anti-piracy ad.

TorrentFreak writes:

In 2006, Dutch musician Melchior Rietveldt was asked to compose a piece of music to be used in an anti-piracy advert. It was to be used exclusively at a local film festival. However, when Rietveldt bought a Harry Potter DVD in 2007, he discovered his music being used in the anti-piracy ad without his permission. In fact, it had been used on dozens of DVDs both in the Netherlands and overseas.

In order to get the money he was owed, Rietveldt went to local music royalty collecting agency Buma/Stemra who had been representing him since 1988 but had failed to pay him any money for the anti-piracy piece previously registered with them.

Stemra deliberately kept Rietveld in the dark about the number of DVDs that had the pirated music on them, and initially refused to pay him money. After a lot of nagging Rietveld was contacted by a board member who offered him a fast track to his money if only he would split the loot with said board member.

Rietveld claimed 100,000 euro in damages, but the court only awarded him 20,000 euro (Dutch courts rarely award anything more than ‘proven’ damages), so Stemra now asserts this is a big win for them. Since the government is ultimately responsible for the dealings of the copyright collection agencies, I have my doubts—again—that this will ever lead to a second of jail time for the likes of Stemra.

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July 2, 2012

Wild police chase using a tractor

Filed under: Bicycles by Branko Collin @ 8:45 am

Police officers had to resort to requisitioning a tractor to catch three suspected bicycle thieves in a field last Thursday, the Breukelen police report.

Earlier that evening a citizen saw the three suspects loading bicycles into a van and alerted 112 (the European emergency phone number). A motorcycle cop spotted the van and signalled the driver to stop, but the van continued onto the A2 motorway in the direction of Amsterdam. During the chase, the van stopped on the shoulder and three men emerged, fleeing into a meadow.

Several officers ran after the suspects, and at that point one of the officers requisitioned a tractor with which he or she continued the chase. With the help of wardens of a nearby nature reserve who were passing in a boat, the officers managed to stop and arrest the suspects on top of a dike.

The suspects turned out to be from Haarlem and were aged 29, 37 and 43. The van had a stolen license plate.

You read it here first, folks: three men from Harlem arrested in Brooklyn using a tractor.

(Photo of a dike in Kockengen, near where we suspect the three were apprehended, by E. Dronkert, some rights reserved)

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March 15, 2012

Judges punish ‘foreign looking’ criminals harder

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 7:26 pm

Dutch judges are five times more likely to send a criminal to jail if the suspect has a foreign appearance, researchers from Leiden University found out.

That likelihood increases to 20 times if the suspect does not speak Dutch.

The researchers checked for expected variables such as the features of the crime, the likelihood of the suspect to commit further crimes, and the location of the court.

Judges not only discriminated against foreigners with a non-Dutch appearance, but also against men. Women are three times less likely to end in jail than men who committed the same crimes. Only lighter crimes, including theft, assault, battery and traffic violations were studied.

A factor that did not influence the weight of the punishment was whether suspects showed they were sorry.

The researchers expressed concern that people receive a prison sentence when community or a fine would have sufficed, because prison sentence are known to kick-start criminal careers.

(Via: NRC. Link: Leiden University)

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February 26, 2012

Bicycle thief caught because he could not reach the pedals

Filed under: Bicycles,General by Branko Collin @ 1:48 pm

Last Friday a man in Nijmegen drew the attention of the local constabulary because he failed to reach the pedals of the bicycle he was riding on the Hazenkampseweg.

A quick check of the frame number by the police officers who had been driving in an unmarked car that the bike had been stolen on January 13 from the Dukenberg shopping centre. The 21-year-old man was apprehended on suspicion of theft and handling stolen goods.

The bicycle will be returned to its owner.


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