Police and local authorities around the Netherlands are gearing up to prevent disturbances and violence on New Year’s Eve.
The exuberant festivities in the Netherlands have a tendency to boil over into violence, rioting and arson. Letterboxes and recycling containers are routinely sealed off on 31 December to prevent them becoming a receptacle for lighted fireworks. But this year a range of extra security measures will be in place around the country in an attempt to prevent trouble.
In the southern village of Veen, which last year was the scene of rioting on 31 December, the defence ministry will be deploying a remote control spy plane to spot any trouble as it develops. Following this summer’s beach party riots in Hook of Holland close to Rotterdam, the city’s authorities have stepped up security, with an extra 200 police on the beat with stop-and-search powers in the city centre.
Last year some 50 cars were set on fire in The Hague on New Year’s Eve, and in an attempt to prevent a repeat this year, multi-storey car parks will be free of charge. An alcohol ban will also be in place in certain areas of the city. Around 250 known troublemakers have received a letter, delivered personally by a local police officer, warning them that they are being closely watched. Police in Amsterdam will be paying similar visits to people who were picked up for causing trouble last year.
In many places in the Netherlands bonfires are traditionally lit to welcome in the New Year. In Floradorp, a northern suburb of Amsterdam, police have been following bonfire preparations with hidden cameras to ensure that the fuel of Christmas trees and wooden pallets is not supplemented by garden furniture or other stolen items. In 2003 a car ended up on the bonfire and the event was banned. Feelings in the neighbourhood ran high, and the ban led to clashes in the neighbourhood with riot police. A compromise deal was struck and the fire now has official backing again under strict conditions. This year locals hope to build the fire 20 metres high.
Fireworks are also an unmissable part of the New Year’s celebrations in the Netherlands, and official sales opened on Tuesday. However, police have to work hard to stem the flow of dangerous illegal fireworks. In the southern city of Den Bosch on Tuesday, police found 3000 kilograms of illegal fireworks stored in a residential house.
Every New Year sees a crop of injuries as fireworks are set off recklessly in narrow city streets. The Dutch Ophthalmic Association has called for a total ban on fireworks for consumers. Over New Year last year, 268 patients were treated for eye injuries caused by fireworks, and 24 eyes were blinded. The Green Left party, which backs such a ban, has appealed to revellers to leave lighting fireworks to those who haven’t been drinking.
Fireworks on sale for New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands – ANP