On Thursday 7 May 2020, T. van Ruitenburg will defend his PhD dissertation, entitled: ‘Raising Moral Barriers. An empirical study on the Dutch approach to outlaw motorcycle gangs’.
This research stems from an interesting turn in Dutch policy towards the clubs that are better known today as ‘outlaw motorcycle gangs’ (OMGs). Where the Hells Angels MC received a subsidy from the municipality of Amsterdam in the 1970s to build a clubhouse, nowadays all available (administrative) measures are set to prevent the establishment of these and other OMGs in clubhouses. Where in the past these problematic groups literally received a place in society, current national policy seems to prescribe to exclude these groups from this place. The aim of this research is to understand, explain and describe this 180-degree shift in the Dutch approach to OMGs. In order to map the development of the Dutch approach from the 1970s onwards, in addition to the analysis of municipal archive material and national policy documents, a total of 56 interviews were conducted with, among others, mayors and police officers.
This thesis reveals that the current approach to OMGs has been strongly influenced by the idea that crime policy in the Netherlands is increasingly geared to the prevention of crime and risks. In doing so, the author builds on Zedner's (2007) argument that today's society is turning into a ‘pre-crime society’. At the same time, the author shows that the approach to OMGs has a strong moral character. That is, OMGs are not only viewed by the Dutch government as a ‘risk’ for crime, but also as a phenomenon for which there should be no place in a ‘good’ and ‘normal’ society. This brings the author to the general conclusion that the present-day approach to OMGs, in addition to tackling and preventing crime, can be characterized by a moral conflict over who sets the rules in the Netherlands. In doing so, the author argues, among other things, that the government's aim to raise barriers against OMGs will not always be effective in preventing crime and that it is important not to consider OMGs as one homogeneous group.
The PhD defences will not take place publicly in the Senate Hall or Professor Andries Queridoroom due to the coronavirus. The candidates will defend their thesis online.