Hand grenades in Amsterdam: What’s up with that?

In a capital known for its safety, hand grenade sightings and incidents are increasing in businesses in Amsterdam. According to nu.nl, in 2017 there were 22 hand grenades found in Amsterdam and 44 by 2018. Five months into 2019, we’re already at 22 cases of hand grenades in the capital. What is going on?

Source: publicdomainpictures.net

The Dutch police think the increase in hand grenades in the capital is due to the low price. Hand grenades are very easy to get and inexpensive to buy and are between 5 and 20 euros. Chief of Police Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg says these are traded via the dark web and that mainly Yugoslav and Russian explosives are ordered, according to AT5.

NRC crime journalist Jan Meeus tells Good Morning Netherlands that the increase in hand grenade incidents is a consequence of the end of the Sov. He says, “When that country fell apart, many weapons came into the hands of traders. Now you can easily buy those grenades. Certainly, if you have criminal connections or are at home on the dark web”.

Meeus argues “criminals have started to use this policy to their own advantage” in order to close down businesses.

Weapon of intimidation

Hand grenades are often deposited in businesses in Amsterdam to threaten that location. These are usually taped to doors and are a cheap way of intimidating a business or the owners behind it. When police find a hand grenade in a location, they will shut down the place for various periods of times (sometimes permanently). Even if only for a few weeks, this affects local business and is happening mostly in Coffee Shops in the center.

New Times Coffeeshop was only closed for a week after two hand grenades were found in April, but other businesses are not so lucky. Smoke Palace in Amsterdam Oost has been closed since March indefinitely after suffering two explosions in January and March. A petition to keep Smoke Palace open has been shared, arguing that by closing down the coffeeshop, the municipality lets the criminals have their way.

Police response and the law on hand grenades

Police are struggling in resolving hand grenade cases. According to AT5, in 2017, only 1 hand grenade case could be resolved. Chief of police Aalbersberg argues that arrest is difficult since a hand grenade is so small. He tells AT5,  “You walk on the street late at night and if nobody sees you, you put it down and walk on. The chance that people see that is very small. It is not seen and makes no noise”.

Police also have limited access to camera images and often the incident is not visible in the dark. Therefore, the police are dependent on tips from the public. The chief of police says, “If you see one in a home, in a cupboard or a drawer. If you see a hand grenade: call us”.

Source: Flickr/Jos van Zetten

However, there are low penalties for possession of weapons. If someone is arrested once for carrying a weapon like a hand grenade, usually they will receive around 6 months in prison. Only if someone is arrested for the second time and have a huge amount of weapons do they receive a higher sentence at a maximum of six years.

The reality is that criminals have started using the municipality’s policy of closing down businesses to their own advantage. Is the municipality enabling the perpetrator by keeping these businesses closed? Do you believe the law should be stricter? Let us know in the comments, below!

Lara Silva
Lara Silva
Originally from Lisbon, Lara now lives as a Londener where she studies journalism. She enjoys writing about politics, news and culture. Her favorite hobbies include eating pizza, drinking portuguese beer and smashing the patriarchy.



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