The convenience store in James Ensorlaan in Vilvoorde was robbed on Saturday morning. Two suspects entered the store and showed a handgun. Under threat, the staff had to hand over money for the third time. It is the third robbery of a Carrefour in the municipality.
The suspects fled in a gray vehicle. Further details are not yet known, an investigation has been opened. Mayor Hans Bonte (Vooruit) of Vilvoorde was outraged by this brash plague of robberies: “The servants in the department store were given a pistol to their head. That is very extreme, now for the third time. They are shocked. We must do everything we can to stop this plague.”
“Despite the quick response of our police officers and the thorough investigation, our city seems to be in the grip of a gang of robbers. However, we cannot avoid the painful observation that our police organization lacks people and resources to be able to act more efficiently and to make the necessary preventive efforts.”
No solution yet
This finding results in a drastic measure by the mayor. “It is gradually becoming clear that the Minister of the Interior, Annelies Verlinden (CD&V) must wake up. A few months after the alarm cry of the police chiefs of Halle-Vilvoorde about the structural shortages in the police services of Halle-Vilvoorde, the minister has not offered any solution. The plague of robberies in Vilvoorde also shows the bankruptcy of the Federal Canal Plan. We won’t get anywhere with a paper plan that keeps up appearances.”
Bonte also emphasizes that the reinforcement of twenty officers of the federal police in the Zone VIMA (Vilvoorde-Machelen) is now being phased out. “So the Canal Plan is dead”, Bonte sighs. “As president of the police college of the police zone VIMA, I will request the immediate installation of a federal flash team that better protects commercial matters. This approach has proven its worth in the past to achieve preventive results during the dark months. A mayor can call on this assistance in an emergency.”
“Due to the structural problems at our police zones – including the phasing out of reinforcements from the Canal Plan – VIMA can no longer man such flash teams on its own. Therefore, I will use my jurisdiction to requisition federal agents. The minister must realize that our people also have the right to protection and safety in the periphery around Brussels. It’s starting to look like negligence.”
Chief of police Erik Bassleer of the VIMA zone also reacts with disbelief. “Despite our capacity problems, we are trying to organize extra supervision,” says the chief of police. “Our local detectives are intensively looking for the suspects of the various robberies.”
We contacted spokeswoman Marie Verbeke of the cabinet of Minister Verlinden, but she was unable to answer the question about the phasing out of federal police support in Vilvoorde, she promised a response later this weekend. The managers of Carrefour Express in Vilvoorde cannot be reached for comment for the time being. The public prosecutor and the police sent several teams to the scene.