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Crime wave engulfs Brussels’ biggest train station

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New police data shows that Brussels’ Midi station has become a hotspot for crime, with about 10 offenses taking place there every day — a situation one Flemish nationalist MP says is “unacceptable.”

The figures, encompassing all official reports that the police have made in the train station between 2018 and 2022, was released by Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden, at the request of N-VA MP Tomas Roggeman, reported Belgian outlet De Standaard on Monday.

“That is an unacceptable situation,” Roggeman told the newspaper. “Brussels South is the international gateway to our country with the Eurostar and Thalys. This is the first thing many foreigners see of our country, and it is not a pretty picture.”

Brussels Midi is the capital’s main railway hub, with trains leaving for all directions within Belgium — and to international locations including Paris, London, Amsterdam and Cologne.

According to the figures, about 3,500 crimes take place at the station each year, with the most common being theft, extortion and drug-related offenses.

The crime numbers at the station dwarf other Belgian cities.

With 3,447 crimes in 2020 and 3,320 in 2021, Midi station had almost as many criminal offenses as all stations in 13 Flemish cities — including Antwerp and Ghent — put together, De Standaard found. In 2019, the number reached 4,205, while in 2018 it was lower, at 2,815. While numbers for 2022 are incomplete, they show 2,204 crimes from January to September.  

Last week, Sophie Dutordoir, CEO of Belgian railway company SNCB, appealed to politicians in a letter, asking for help tackling the “dramatic situation” at Brussels Midi.

In the letter, which was sent to Brussels Minister-President Rudi Vervoort, Minister of Mobility Georges Gilkinet, Verlinden and the mayors Jean Spinette of Saint-Gilles and Fabrice Cumps of Anderlecht, Dutordoir said more needs to be done to address the station’s problems, from cleanliness to safety.

“SNCB does not have the resources nor the powers to take on this problem alone,” she said. “It is imperative that each partner takes responsibility.”

This triggered some finger-pointing between Velinden and Vervoort, with the interior minister saying the initiative “must come from the Brussels prime minister,” while Vervoort replied that shifting responsibility is “disconcerting.”

“She is responsible for security throughout the country and is responsible for the police, including the railway police,” he said.

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