For all you new and recurring students we organised a little interview with our very own police officer, Paul Vermin. He was happy to answer any of our questions regarding student safety. You may have met him during the INKOM, or during an inauguration of an association, with which mr. Vermin has good contact.
Being the general contact point for all students, this means that in case a students goes to the police to report something stolen, for instance, he will be notified of it, even if another officer helps the student. Having worked for the police in Maastricht for 21 years already, Paul has seen his fair share of stuff happening. Safe to say, bad things also happen to students. That’s why three years ago Paul Vermin went to the police department of Groningen, as the police there already had a special task force that dealt with student-related problems. He looked at how they went about things and asked for advice to be able to do the same in Maastricht. Of course, to start up something like that is pretty hard, however, Paul is well on his way!
What the police wants is to accommodate students. In order to do that, Paul tells us that you have to create awareness among students, it helps remove part of the problem. Part of this problem is to show (international) students that the police takes them seriously. Among criminality that is student-related, Vermin says that theft, robbery and drugs are among the biggest. To further discuss the latter, Paul names the biggest problem with it. A lot of international students have the idea that doing drugs is allowed in the Netherlands. However, the term “gedoogwet” is not easily translate-able, but it basically means that even though using soft drugs is illegal in the Netherlands, the law in question isn’t enforced. This means that it’s possible to buy soft drugs and to have a certain amount, but it doesn’t mean that all drugs are allowed.
After a lot of coffeeshops closing in Maastricht by the municipality, there has been a rise of street dealers. These dealers often sell drugs that are full of junk, sometimes even containing stuff like rat poison or chlorine. This is something that the new students in Maastricht have no idea of, making it even more dangerous.
One of the biggest barriers for the police that prevents them from helping students is when a student doesn’t report a crime. After a night out you might discover that someone took your phone in one of the clubs in Maastricht, yet not report it to the police. However, when you don’t report your phone stolen, the police has nothing to go with, and are therefore helpless at helping you, the student! While talking about this, I, Ashika (reporter for Maastricht Students) realise that in my first year, this occurred and while turning red, I explain that I didn’t think the police would be able to do anything.. “As long as you don’t do it again!” Paul tells me. All I have to say now: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
Mr. Vermin also said that it’s so easy for people to break into a house, something that can even be done with a bank card. That’s why when he walks through a neighbourhood and sees that a student has left their window open with a laptop in front of it, Paul walks in, sees if anyone is there and tells them to shut their window or close their door or gate properly.
One of the things that makes this job worth it for Paul Vermin, is of course to be able to prevent criminality, but also to receive positive reactions from the neighbourhood or being able to accompany a victim to the court room, being mental support, and getting thanked afterwards. It’s not about just processing complaints and having to react to emergency calls.
Being very active on Twitter already (follow @POL_Vermin), Paul says that the next step in order to be more present for students is to have a Facebook page. This will come in the future, so keep your eyes peeled! After asking for some tips he might have for students, he sums up a few pointers. (Some of these are self-evident and well-known, however, still need to be done)
- Don’t walk home alone late at night
- If your friend is drunk or under the influence, don’t let them walk home alone
- Don’t let yourself be offended easily, people do it to get a rise out of you. Don’t give it to them 😉
To take a look at the nation-wide campaign against theft, click here for our blogpost about it.
If you have a problem, that you want to communicate to Paul Vermin, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the general police number 0900-8844. In case of emergency call: 1-1-2!
Here is a video of Breaking Maas about student safety that was made in cooperation with the police and the fire department.
So, to all you Maastricht Students, stay safe!
Blogpost by Ashika Baan, photography by Brian Megens