Thursday, April 12, 2007

"Measures have been taken"

It has been exactly a year since an underage Polish boy stabbed Joe Van Holsbeeck to death in the Central Station in Brussels for his MP3 player. The murder provoked a wave of outrage throughout the country. Minister for Home Affairs Patrick Dewael (Flemish Liberals Open VLD) says a lot has happened since.

Teen boy murdered for mp3 player at Brussels Central
Police reconstruct Brussels mp3 murder

On 12 April 2006 Joe Van Holsbeeck and his friend were accosted by two other youths in the Central Station. The two had their eye on Joe's MP3 player. The boy refused to hand over the device and was stabbed five times in the chest. He later died in hospital.

Witnesses claimed the perpetrators were of North African descent. The authorities took descriptions from the witnesses but in the end it turned out to have been two Polish boys. The security cameras in the station had footage of the boys.

Joe Van Holsbeeck became the symbol of senseless violence for a whole nation. A few days after the murder some 80,000 people participated in a silent vigil. Joe's father still has a great deal of difficulty dealing with his son's death.

"Sometimes things are going okay and I can put it out of my mind, but whenever it's in the media I'm down in the dumps again."

Van Holsbeeck's father hopes that measures will be introduced to clamp down on violence. "I want politicians and the justice department to tackle the problems. So that at least my son did not die in vain."

Adam G., the boy accused of stabbing Joe, is still in prison awaiting trial. His friend Mariusz O. is in a juvenile facility in Wallonia. He may be tried in juvenile court for his part in the crime.

A number of measures have been taken to increase safety since the death of Joe, says Home Affairs Minister Patrick Dewael (Flemish Liberals Open VLD).

"There are more police on the streets now, thought that is not directly related to Joe's murder. That had been already agreed in the coalition agreement," Dewael says. "We had promised 2,500 additional officers and there are now 3,000."

"These additional officers are deployed to police the community. They work on the streets, in amongst the people."

"More funds were made available after Joe's death. The railway police now have an additional 35 people and there are 250 cameras in the Brussels train stations. In just one year's time 750 cameras have been installed in the 78 metro stations."

Dewael says that a lot has changed at the justice department as well. "There are more magistrates and criminologists and a new juvenile facility has been added."