Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes
MAASTRICHT. The structural deployment of student investigating officers (in Dutch buitengewone opsporingsambtenaren or boa’s), who have been riding around Maastricht dealing with student disturbances two evenings a week since March 2017 until July 2018, will stop. Instead, residents and students will first have to try and solve their problems themselves. There should also to be a central complaints desk for disturbances.
These are the main recommendations from the evaluation report of the Student & Livability (Student & Leefbaarheid) pilot project. The aim of this trial was to improve the relationship between students and other citizens. The report states that using students as investigating officers for this purpose is not a “profitable” instrument; at any rate, not during the winter months. The advice is to only use the investigating officers “during busy periods or in combination with other tasks for such officers”.
During the trial, the officers patrolled between ten and two o'clock at night. Most reports concerned noise disturbance. Student houses causing problems received two warnings and upon a third incident a fine of 1,000 euro would follow. A first warning was issued a total of 75 times, a second warning three times. Nobody received a fine. There were doubts about whether such a fine was legally tenable – doubts that were also shared by the city council – and could therefore not be tested.
People in neighbourhoods were glad to see the officers: talks showed that “they liked seeing that order was being maintained and action was taken when students caused a disturbance.” This is understandable, the report states, but there are other actions or measures that produce better results. Under the motto “Prevention is better than cure” the report advises the city council to put more effort into preventative measures, such as youth neighbourhood mediation – with volunteers supervised by a professional mediating in conflicts among youths themselves or between youths and adults –, a website, an INKOM video, a postcard with an invitation to make acquaintance, and especially to urge residents to approach students about their behaviour. The pilot showed that the students are often not aware that they are causing a disturbance and usually promise to take others into consideration next time. If all that doesn't work, the police can intervene by issuing fines or even by confiscating equipment.
There must also be a single complaints desk, with continuing attention “for the more specific character of student disturbance.” Preferably a permanent civil servant from the city. The pilot project actually showed that noise disturbance is not mainly a student problem. Moreover, it is unclear whom people should approach when they have a complaint: the police, the local authority or building owners? This lack of clarity is discouraging for those reporting complaints, the report says.