Interview by the Hon. Consul General of India, Marc Huybrechts with Serge Muyters chief of the local police Antwerpen.
– Photo credit – Prapti Sahni

HON.CONSUL GENERAL: Of course the Indian community in Antwerp is well known to you. But they are quite diverse, the Indians in the diamond sector is mainly by Indian Traders of the Jain faith. Is there any message for them? 

HOOFDCOMMISSARIES MUYTERS: Well no, they are actually a very quiet community where we have had no real issues. I would like to reiterate through this interview that we are very open and they should know that we are always there and they can always count on us. But recently there have been people who were victims of a number of serious offenses and that has been very disturbing to me. 

HON.CONSUL GENERAL: The staged “tiger kidnapping “is obviously a very unfortunate event. 

HOOFDCOMMISSARIES MUYTERS: Yes, it was really distressing, I was going to give a speech just before the man was arrested for that simulated robbery and we also had a brochure on the way.  It is good that we finally had a breakthrough in one of these two kidnappings. 

HON.CONSUL GENERAL: That brings me to the Antwerp diamond sector, where the Indian community has been playing a very important role for the last 50 years. There were some questions regarding “safety” in the diamond district. Can you tell us something about the new surveillance policies in the Diamond District? 

HOOFDCOMMISSARIES MUYTERS: Yes it is true that we regularly monitor the district towards threat assessments but these threat assessments are more focused on the Jewish community than the Indian community. Until now there are a number of cameras placed within the diamond district by the police and also quite of few privately. So far there was no real policy on how these cameras should be placed. This Monday the city council actually approved to start investing in cameras in the area. Not just in the diamond district but also in the vicinity of Jewish institutions and schools. In the diamond district there are about 35 cameras connected to the command room of the police. These are functional day and night. This allows us to observe the occurrence of any suspicious acts and helps prevent any untoward incidents from happening and if anything should happen it is easier to send out a patrol immediately. So the extra cameras will definitely help in not just fighting crime but will also act as a deterrence in terms of any terrorist threat. 

HON.CONSUL GENERAL: Just a question, the diamond district is supervised by the Antwerp police and not the federal police? 

HOOFDCOMMISSARIES MUYTERS: Yes indeed, The Diamond District comes within the jurisdiction of the local police. 

HON.CONSUL GENERAL: Thank you for that explanation, another question particular to the Indian community. Most Indians only speak Hindi or Gujarati and English. When there are language problems can the community go to the “info” unit for help? 

HOOFDCOMMISSARIES MUYTERS: Well, actually most of our police staff speak fluent English, and especially the people from the “info” service. At the moment there are so many nationalities here but English is normally not a problem. 

HON.CONSUL GENERAL: Is there a list of interpreters who can translate Gujarati and Hindi to Dutch or Flemish?

HOOFDCOMMISSARIES MUYTERS: I believe so, but the list for Indian language interpreters can be obtained from the Court. 

HON.CONSUL GENERAL: Because I can imagine that if someone with no knowledge of English is arrested he would definitely need an interpreter. 

HOOFDCOMMISSARIES MUYTERS: Yes, in that case an interpreter is required, so if someone is arrested and if he can only speak one of the Indian languages, we will seek an interpreter and we will also notify a lawyer. 

HON.CONSUL GENERAL: That slows down the police work? 

HOOFDCOMMISSARIES MUYTERS: Yes that is true but we will be soon leaving this building and moving to a new master building. There we will have enough interrogation rooms and rooms for other services. 

HON.CONSUL GENERAL: Is it difficult to locate a lawyer? 

HOOFDCOMMISSARIES MUYTERS: In Antwerp we are fortunate that this problem does not arise unlike in Brussels and other cities. So far we are well in control. 

HON.CONSUL GENERAL: One last question, many Indians have been victims of “phishing”, is there anything that the police can do about this? 

HOOFDCOMMISSARIES MUYTERS: Actually that is a federal matter. Not just in Belgium but also internationally this problem of phishing is growing. I can only suggest to install a good spam filter and be careful of whose emails you open. There is a system that only those emails will open whose email addresses have been entered in your contact list. 

HON.CONSUL GENERAL: So if someone has become a “phishing” victim, then he is to contact the federal police and not the local Antwerp police? 

HOOFDCOMMISSARIES MUYTERS: Yes, the federal police has a computer crime unit and they follow such cases. We also have a computer crime unit but at the moment the unit is very small and can do very little especially when the fraudster is located on the other end of the world. So the best way is to prevent this from happening in the first place. Do not give away too much data via the internet. 

HON.CONSUL GENERAL: Thank you, sir, it was very nice to talk to you.