Rotterdam: Immigrant groups overrepresented in crime

Rotterdam: Immigrant groups overrepresented in crime

Of the Moroccan-Dutch boys in Rotterdam aged 18 to 24, almost 55% have gotten in trouble with the police on suspicion of offenses.  For Antilleans and Surinamese that's 40%, for Turkish-Dutch men 36% and for ethnic Dutch Rotterdam residents 18.4%.

Frank Bovenkerk presented these 'absolutely frightful numbers' on Wednesday during his departure speech as professor of criminology at the University of Utrecht.  Until now the link between crime and immigrant groups was measured in a standard way, and Bovenkerk says that the data then looks better.

According to the criminologist, for years crimes were counted up wrong.  By linking the police files and the data from Statistics Netherlands (CBS) suspects from the first and second generation immigrant groups could be brought into the picture.  This shows indeed that Antilleans, Moroccans, Surinamese and Turkish-Dutch are overrepresented in the crime statistics.  But looking at the absolute data, the numbers are on the low side, since they're counted per year.  An 18 year old who committed a hold-up in 2006 will only show up in the statistics in 2007.

Bovenkerk says that the normal data doesn't tell how much trouble there is in a certain group.  Most crimes are committed by boys aged 12 to 24: how many of them are counted for the whole period, for serious incidents they've had with the police and courts?  Or: which percentage has a criminal record by the time they're 24?

There is yet no legal basis for registering the ethnic background of individual suspects.  Bovenkerk says that Rotterdam does that, and that is revolutionary.  Since 2002 Rotterdam compiles all data from the police, youth service and consultation bureaus on individuals for whom the ethnicity is known.

In the report Antillean Rotterdam Residents 2008 (Antilliaanse Rotterdammers 2008, compiled by Marion van San c.s. for the Rotterdam municipality), it can be seen for the first time how often boys have gotten into trouble with the police by the end of their crime-susceptible period.  Bovenkerk says that one would think that it's not more than one crime per person, but that is not so: 90% of youth of Moroccan background relapse, compared with 60% of ethnic Dutch.  He expects the Rotterdam data to be true for other cities well, since he says they hear the same things from other places too.

Rather despondent, he says that the for the past twenty years, crime has been high among certain immigrant groups, and has not decreased, and there's no improvement in sight.  However, he opposes the 'almost irresistible Dutch tendency to reduce crime in the multicultural society to an ethnic or cultural problem.  According to him there are two issues in the high crime rate among youth which 'go above the level of the cultural-specific'.

The first is groups who find themselves in the lowest social-economic positions - that is a 'necessary condition'.  But the crime of youth really takes off when there's a lack of social control.  That is true both on the level of the ethnic group as a whole and within the family.  Of the immigrant groups, Turks have the highest level of organization, the most internal social control, and the lowest crime rate, explains Bovenkerk.

The impotence against youth crime is, according to him, due to the fact that these groups are themselves victims.  "Until recently it was often thought that Muslims never steal from Muslims, and that if you don't want your car broken into, then you better hang prayer beads on the car window."  Studies show that minorities are as much victims are ethnic Dutch.  "For quite a while burglars don't discriminate any more".

A policy against crime shouldn't be grafted unto culture, thinks Bovenkerk.  He also oppose the legal basis for ethnic registration of crime, such as the Minister of Internal Affairs Ter Horst proposed last September.  The politicians said that this would enable policies made to measure for certain groups.

Bovenkerk warns that 'made to measure' easily degenerated into stereotypical treatment.  In the Rotterdam approach, criminal cases are sorted based on ethnic background.  A Moroccan worker is sent to a Moroccan, Antilleans get an Antillean coach.

Bovekerk is also dead set against having ethnicity play a role in social work or sentencing.  Since when can a crime be explained by origin?  Is certain behavior typically Moroccan or does it come from street culture?  He points to a visit to Morocco of Dutch police agents and officials , where they heard that the boys for which they wanted to get a cultural explanation were not Moroccan, but Dutch.  "These boys are the product of North-European cities."

The criminologist thinks that studying crime and ethnicity is permitted, provided that it's done for science.  In sentencing, the equality principal should always get precedence.   The judge should go into the suspect's personality and the circumstances of the case.  "In that culture can play a role, but it doesn't have to."

Source: Volkskrant 1, 2 (Dutch)

See also: Netherlands: Islam contributing to delinquent behavior

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