It appears that routine searches of one’s home to check for a vast array of “problems” are now performed door-to-door in The Netherlands. The city of The Hague is inspecting all homes in a number of neighborhoods. One resident, that apparently told these people to bugger off at a previous occasion, got a threatening letter. Translated to English, it says:
Subject: Inspection regarding occupancy relating to The Hague Residence Brigade
In The Hague, we want pleasant and safe neighborhoods. For this reason, we are inspecting all homes in your neighborhood. For each address, we will see if the rules and regulations are met.
The residence you own at <blank> was visited by our team on the 10th of June2009, but we were refused entrance.
On Thursday the 25h of June between 13:00 and 14:00 your residence will be visited again by a team of the “The Hague Residence Brigade” led by the City Planning Office. We will verify the state of the building, (fire) safety and the actual use of the residence.
All rooms of the residence are subject to this inspection. The cooperation of all residents is therefore a necessity.
We’d like to point out that this is not a voluntary inspection. You are obliged to cooperate. If you refuse to cooperate , we’d like to point out that we are legally entitled to enter the premises with a legal warrant and without the cooperation of the owner and/or occupant(s).
If the date or time are not convenient for you, you have the option to, within 5 working days after postmark of this letter, call the above number Monday through Friday between 08:00 and 16:00.
If an illegal situation is found during the investigation, you will receive notice about further proceedings as soon as possible.
We trust his letter has provided you with all the necessary information.
City Planning Office
Department for Building, Inspection and Service
Ms. C. Kolenmijn
Inspector Project The Hague Residence Brigade
Note the sentence “In The Hague, we want pleasant and safe neighborhoods”, stifling any criticism before it even got underway. I remember when “safe” was when the government didn’t get to search your house without a suspicion and decent legal oversight. A look at the website of the municipality sheds some further light on this operation:
Since the 15th of April the The Hague Residence Brigade is active in three The Hague power neighborhoods: Transvaal, Stationsbuurt/Rivierenbuurt and Schilderswijk. The The Hague Residence Brigade (the former “catch-up enforcement”) targets, among other things, over-population, mariuana plantations and social benefit fraud. By tackling these problems, the city intends to create safer and more livable neighborhoods.
The Brigade also checks whether occupants are registered with the municipality and traces social benefit fraud. For this purpose a team has been formed from many different municipal services which cooperates with the police, fire brigade, tax authorities and the local energy company. This integrated approach allows for the effective handling of a wide variety of problems.
It gets downright ominous and scary further down. In what sounds like a bad parody, The Hague tells its inhabitants: “We’re from the government and we’re here to help”:
In the past three neighborhoods in The Hague have been inspected by this team (Regentesse-, Valkenboskwartier, Rustenburg/Oostenbroek and Laak). All the addresses in a neighborhood were looked at. First digitally by coupling the databases of the various services and when needed by house visits. Since the end of 2005, 19.000 inspections were performed. During the inspections in the power neighborhoods, the social aspect will be more pronounced.
In the The Hague Residence Brigade finds social problems, the appropriate code will be reported at the municipal registry “Den Haag OpMaat”. Through this code the appropriate caregivers are mobilized. This could be psychological help, addiction care or the center for youth and family. This way, the municipality can reach inhabitants that are not yet familiar with the help and support the municipality can offer.
For those wondering, unlike the name suggests the term “power neighborhood” (dutch: krachtwijk) is the current dutch politically correct euphemism for a neighborhood that isn’t doing all that well. It used to be “wonderful neighborhood” (dutch: prachtwijk).
This story has made some dutch weblogs, but by and large the Dutch don’t see much wrong with what’s going on here. After all, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. And the government is just trying to help.
I blame the ongoing crisis in our educational system. So let this be a warning to other countries. It will take a while to kick in, but this is what you get if you turn your educational system into a “highly efficient” privatized diploma-factory.
Either way: the minute I get one of these letters, I will sue. If I lose, I’ll sell my house and move to Berlin.