POLITICS & INSTITUTIONS - ECONOMY

Mayor warns of “lawless zones”



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 Ville de Luxembourg

Social behaviour: vandalism on the Kinnekswiss lawn has led the city authorities to resume their call for a reform of the justice system.

Luxembourg city mayor Paul Helminger is exasperated. At a city breakfast this week he distributed photographs which show scenes of vandalism and strewn rubbish on the Kinnekswiss lawn in the city park. The mayor says the sort of behaviour is, in some cases, “bordering on the criminal”. But that is exactly the problem the city authorities face. The procedure for prosecuting the perpetrators of such behavior is complicated, time consuming and costly because while hardly any of these violations would qualify as being criminal they nevertheless fall under the penal code. The city’s hands are tied because their agents municipaux do not have the power to do anything about it. “And the police do not have enough personnel,” says Helminger.

Justice system failing

The mayor is urging for a change to the law to widen the powers of the agents municipaux, but reform of the police law stalled two years ago when the council of state rejected draft legislation.  “So many of those determined to cause a nuisance know they can act with impunity,” the mayor told City Magazine in May. Helminger also says that the area around the station is also in danger of turning into what he calls a “zone non-droit”. If the local authorities do not have the power to act and the police are understaffed, then such “lawless zones” will only become worse, he argues. “Our justice system is failing.

Helminger says the city employs two seven-man teams from its service d’hygiène to clean the Kinnekswiss every day and that some 30 80-litre waste receptacles are located on the lawn. Nevertheless, certain elements of the mainly young people who spend time on the lawn simply leave their litter on the grass. In some cases they have even purposely smashed bottles before leaving the Kinnekswiss--a particularly dangerous act of vandalism given that children also use the lawn to play.

Ministry of Respect

The city has tried to spread a preventative message among local schools and has broadened its Ministry of Respect campaign, but to little effect. And CCTV cameras in the park have not deterred the vandals either. Indeed, the mayor cites one case where a park warden asked a group of youths to place their rubbish in the receptacles provided. Despite knowing that he was being filmed, only for one of their group to stand up and tip over the rubbish bin, spreading litter across the lawn. “This sort of behaviour is totally unacceptable,” says Helminger.