A wave of theft and vandalism has hit the downtown of Europe’s capital, only blocks away from where leaders have been trying to fix the continent’s debt crisis, provoking the local police chief to blame immigrants and drug addicts.
While government heads pulled up in the past few days in luxury cars shielded by security vehicles, the streets nearby revealed a cruder side to Europe’s economic troubles–shattered car window glass lining one major avenue and a slew of store windows smashed in a nearby neighborhood.
The daily average tallied 26 thefts from vehicles, 13 pickpocket incidents and nine violent thefts in October in the zone of Brussels-Capital and Ixelles, according to police. The zone covers large parts of the Brussels metropolitan area including the city center.
Pickpocket incidents in the year up to November 1 were up to 3,020 this year from 2,509 in the same period of 2010. Violent robberies rose to 1,955 from 1,725. Thefts from vehicles declined to 6,200 in the period this year from 6,500 last–but in October they went up by 16 percent.
Police chief Guido Van Wymerschn says that rime is rising due to drug addicts and illegal immigrants.
“It should put in place a policy so that migrants know what they are up against,” he said. “People deserve a chance but we can also be more selective in deciding who we accept and who we don’t.”
Some people blame rising crime on unemployment–though Belgian unemployment, at 6.7 percent in September 2011, was below the EU average of 9.7 percent and down from 8.2 percent in September 2010.