Crime in Belgium
Belgium remains relatively free of violent crime, but low-level street crime is common. Muggings, purse snatchings, and pocket picking occur frequently, particularly in major cities. Thieves often loiter in transportation hubs like the Metro (subway) and train stations to take advantage of disoriented or distracted travelers.
According to Urban Audit, in 2001, Brussels had the fourth highest number of recorded crimes of European capitals (behind Stockholm, Amsterdam, and Berlin, and virtually on a par with Helsinki). According to the same source, Brussels had a rate of 10 murders or violent deaths per 100,000 citizens.
Belgium's second largest city, Antwerp, saw crime rates about 20% below those of Brussels. Liège and Charleroi, industrial cities with high unemployment rates, saw more elevated crime rates than the less industrialized cities of Ghent and Bruges. The rural areas are generally extremely safe.
Crime by type
Gangs in Belgium
In the 1990s and early 2000s, attacks on money transit vans were perpetrated, often killing the security agents in charge, and the country was hit by several large-scale crime scandals, such as those of the Brabant Wallon killers, the Scarface gang and the Belgian Mafia. More recently, some scandals have emerged regarding corruption and misuse of public resources (such as ICDI affair). In addition, petty crimes such as street thefts, purse snatchings, and pickpocketing can be found in the main city centers, but remain limited in scale. Car theft used to occur frequently, but is in strong diminution in the last decade.
|Founding location||Liege, Belgium|
|Ethnicity||Belgians, Italians, Moroccans, French, Greeks and Maronites|
|Criminal activities||assassinations, diamond smuggling, extortion, arms trafficking, fraud, cybercrime, prostitution, drug trafficking|
Crime and racial tension
A study based on data from 1999 concluded that minors of non-European nationality were overrepresented in crime statistics. While 4.4% of the Belgian population has a non-European nationality, 19% of all prosecuted cases, and 24% of cases presented in youth court involved non-European nationals.
Usually, serious safety issues in Brussels are mostly limited to residential boroughs with a low income population. These include notably Sint-Jans-Molenbeek, Schaarbeek, Anderlecht, and Forest/Vorst.
In November 2005, Brussels was very minorly affected by the spread of the French riots. Another recent development is a steep increase in violent armed robberies carried out by minors.
However, as official statistics show  the trend for violent crime is strongly downward, murder rate is stable, around 1.8 per 100.000 inhabitants (all be it one of the highest in the region), while Cybercrime related issues are very steeply on the rise. The nation also suffers from foreign criminals targeting it on account of the fact that it is perceived to be a soft touch due to its relatively low crime rate. According to British criminal Colin Blaney in his autobiography Undesirables, an English organized jewelry theft group known as the Wide Awake Firm has operated in the nation and become involved in violent incidents with outlaw biker gangs.
Terrorism and crime
Besides general safety issues in some boroughs, Brussels reportedly serves as a hub for terrorists, as reported by various sources such as Interpol, and local newspapers such as Het Nieuwsblad and Het Volk. In the same boroughs that pose safety problems (e.g. Sint-Jans-Molenbeek, Schaarbeek, ...) there is radicalisation. This remains however very limited in scale, the occurrence of Belgian nationals directly linked to international terrorism hovering around 0.1-1 per million inhabitants for the last decade.
The two Tunisian nationals who assassinated Commander Massoud in Afghanistan had fake Belgian passports, and the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (Groupe Islamique Combattant Marocain, or GICM) has links in Belgium too - there were arrests in Brussels and Antwerp of individuals involved in the Madrid bombing. As a result, stringent measures were taken against passport and other official documents forging.
Crime and politics
Much reported in newspapers were Mayor Moureaux of Molenbeeks's failed attempts at revitalizing the Brussels municipality. An example was the withdrawal of BBDO in June 2011 from the town. In an open letter addressed to Moureaux, ten employees of this American advertising agency cited over 150 attacks on their staff by locals as principal reason for their departure. As a result, serious questions were raised about governance, security, and the administration of Mayor Moureaux. This played in in a wider context of left-right wing political discord lining up with Belgium's Flemish-Walloons language conflict. The case became emblematic of perceived Walloon socialist plotting to let neighbourhoods degrade (by inviting immigrants and offering them social security) to create socialist-voting poor constituents. The Walloon side thought it showed how Flemish media, mostly controlled by openly nationalist families, push a right-wing and xenophobic agenda.
- "Belgium 2013 Crime and Safety Report". OSAC. OSAC. Retrieved 20 October 2014.
- Polfed-fedpol.be pp. 12 'Vol de voitures'
- "Procès Habran: 60 ans de criminalité pour Marcel Habran". dhnet.be.
- "Global Corruption Barometer 2013- Belgium". Transparency International. Transparency International. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
- Polfed-fedpol.be pp. 12-19
- Polfed-fedpol.be pp. 38-39: 25 'Assassinats' + 142 'Meurtres' (actually leading to death) in 2007
- Blaney, Colin (2014). Undesirables. John Blake. pp. 210–211. ISBN 978-1782198970.
- "Italy holds 'key Madrid plotter'". BBC. 8 June 2004. Retrieved 9 May 2013.
- "Archives - lacapitale.be". lacapitale.
- bbd. "BBDO zwaar ontgoocheld in Moureaux". De Standaard.
- Belgium USA Department of State.
- Urban Audit: How cities rank
- (Dutch) Abnormaal veel minderjarige allochtonen in criminaliteitscijfers, Het Laatste Nieuws.
- BBC News Belgian 'suicide bomber' is named.
- Belgian Federal Police (See (Dutch) and (French) versions for the most detailed statistics).
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