Partying, studying, meeting new people and… evading gunshots? What exactly does the university experience entail for students in certain neighborhoods of the Dutch capital? One such area is the Spinozacampus in Bijlmermeer, southeast of the city center.
Although the area has seen a major increase in safety in the past few decades – having gone from 20,000 reported complaints in 1995 to 8,000 in 2005 – it is still considered one of the most dangerous areas to live in. In fact, according to the Safety Index provided by the Municipality of Amsterdam, the two most unsafe neighborhoods outside of the city center, are located in Bijlmermeer; the H-buurt and K-buurt, with a safety index of 133 and 134, respectively. In comparison, the Weesperbuurt, location of Roeterseiland Campus, has an index of 81, and Ouderkerk aan de Amstel is the safest with an index of 42. This makes housing provider DUWO’s decision to create a student accommodation complex in H-buurt’s bordering neighborhood, Amsterdamse Poort, controversial.
Number of reported complaints:
Since 2015, Spinozacampus has been the scene of various reported criminal incidents including burglaries, assaults, break-ins and harassments. Although everyday life usually occurs without any incidence, according to first-year resident Alia (18), the history and reputation of the campus does spread a feeling of uneasiness, especially at night. It appears as though many students have intentions to move closer to the center. The end of the last year and the beginning of 2019 has seen a bad spell – a student sitting in their room was barely missed by a stray shot in November, and there have been two attempted sexual assaults in December and January.
Emma*, a student activist who decided that these conditions are no longer acceptable, exclaimed, “As a student, being attacked should not be an option; it should not be something we need to think about. These things don’t need to happen. There is something that we can do, but we actually need to do it!” Thus, a petition was created not only to raise awareness among the community, but also to move DUWO to act on students’ demands for safety.
After being contacted by Emma, the company reacted quickly; an employee was sent to investigate the conditions on campus and e-mail-traffic between the company and the tenants became more frequent. Despite DUWO’s initial reaction of arguing with improving crime statistics and advising the students to just be more “street smart” around campus, there have been improvements– namely, the employment of security guards present all day for a limited time period.
Student reactions suggest an improvement in atmosphere and closer contact with DUWO. A WhatsApp group has been created allowing tenants to stay in touch with police, guards and the organization. Moreover, DUWO Spokesman and Director of Public Affairs Gijsbert Mul claimed that “findings on ‘smarter safety’ will be used in a broader debate held by the local authorities by the end of February to improve where necessary.” In addition, according to Mul, “all technical safety measures within the buildings are being monitored very closely.”
Prior to the events leading up to the employment of the safety measures, there were frequent complaints about broken locks and similar issues that had barely been amended. According to anonymous sources, many inquiries are still being answered late or even completely ignored, increasing the feeling of unease. “We hope that the increased security will remain permanent so that these kind of things diminish. Right now, the company needs to monitor the situation, listen and keep an eye on the students,” Emma suggests.
*The name was changed to protect the source.