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Pleas for greater security in Brussels parks after series of stabbings

13:57 19/04/2022

Brussels residents are calling for increased security in parks after multiple stabbings in recent weeks. 

Surveys of residents in the northern quarter of the city have revealed for some time now that they view Parc Maximilien as “dirty and scary,” Bruzz reports. But others point out that even a well-maintained and populated park like Josaphat in Schaerbeek can become dangerous when night falls and the park empties.

On 9 April, a woman was robbed and stabbed in Parc Duden in the Forest neighbourhood while out walking in the evening. She was hospitalised with serious injuries but is now recovering.

A similar incident took place in the same park on 10 April. “Two women were approached by a man who threatened them with a knife. One of the women resisted and the attacker fled empty-handed,” Sarah Frederickx of the Brussels South local police service told VRT News.

“The man was later identified and detained. Based on the statements of witnesses to the incidents on Saturday and Sunday, it would appear that the same person was involved in both incidents.”

That suspect was a 19-year-old man who will undergo a psychiatric evaluation before authorities decide whether to make a formal arrest. Frederickx said that given the fact that the suspect was in custody, “people should certainly not be afraid to go to the park.”

Fears remain about security at city parks

But for many residents, police assurances that the stabbings were “an isolated case” and “it's not like there's a serial killer running around” do little to assuage fears. 

“A common criminal is also very scary, especially when his stabbing weapon ends up in your left lung,” wrote Bruzz chief editor Kirsten Bertrand in an opinion piece, who criticised the comments from police for being dismissive. 

“As a seasoned Brussels park user, I was left wanting more. This quick communication about 'nothing going on' gave the impression that the two stabbing incidents were not taken seriously. They could have taken the opportunity to emphasise that, as always, everything would be done to welcome park visitors as safely as possible.”

Forest’s mayor Mariam El Hamidine (Ecolo) announced that no extra safety measures were in the pipeline after the stabbings, pointing to trends showing an overall decrease in crime. 

But statistics don’t always translate to on-the-ground feelings of security. 

“In cities, the public space is increasingly being used for living, and parks in particular are increasingly becoming a running circuit, a yoga school, a cycling route and a place for children to run around,” Bertrand said.

“It would be appropriate to devote sufficient attention to the feeling of safety in these busy places. Domestic and foreign research has shown this to be the case. We do not want to argue here for a surveillance society, but municipalities could easily pay more attention to it.”

Photo: Josaphat park © 1030 Schaerbeek

Written by Helen Lyons