The municipality of Amsterdam has extended an experiment with stop and search techniques carried out by the police until 1 July 2022. The measure is widely criticised, and research shows that ethnic minorities are over-represented in these searches. Marc Schuilenburg, Professor of Digital Surveillance at Erasmus School of Law, explains to NH Nieuws why this measure is ineffective and why other alternatives could yield better results.
The law states that municipal councils can give their mayor the power to designate areas of safety hazard when the public order is being disrupted because of (a considerable fear of) the presence of weapons. The public prosecutor can then decide whether the police are allowed to do stop and search campaigns in these areas.
Society is critical of using this measure, partly because it could lead to racial profiling, explains Schuilenburg: “These searches are often conducted among the same people and people of certain skin colour. In Amsterdam, they claim to have solved this issue, but in my opinion, this is no real solution.” Amsterdam allows citizens to check the police, but in practice, this leads to different kinds of side effects; according to Schuilenburg: “the police disagree with these checks, and in their turn, the police recheck citizens. Stop and search practices mainly cost much manpower but eventually have little effect.”
Deescalating instead of searching
Research shows that stop and search techniques could lead to racial profiling and shows that other solutions are way more effective. Schuilenburg has some examples: “Think about deescalating certain conflicts among youth groups through youth workers and the use of role models to educate and raise awareness.”
Regarding gun ownership, a more goal-oriented policy should be implemented. “It is far more effective to use social-psychological programmes. The local knowledge of municipalities (they know in which neighbourhoods and with whom the problems occur) should be used to offer tailored help, instead of dispatching stop and search teams, which works racially profiling”, emphasises Schuilenburg.