On the Sint-Jansplein there was a calm on Saturday that belongs to the first day of the year. People of all kinds are still sitting on the benches to keep each other company. But the cans of beer, which disappeared there until Friday evening. Only a few dared to quickly open a can.
The alcohol ban does not only apply to the square, but also to the streets around it. In this way, the alcohol-free zone connects to De Coninck and Koningin Astridplein, where this rule has been in effect for some time.
“The alcohol ban is being activated. In the meantime, we are also working on measures for recognized and nuisance offenders. In addition to this guideline, repressive approach, we want to reach that group better and refer them to the care offer. Because their harrowing living conditions are unworthy of a big city,” says Mayor Bart De Wever.
The city of Antwerp is counting on a Flemish budget for the ‘Careful neighbourhood’ project, in addition to the money it has allocated itself, and knows in advance that money will also be forthcoming. Through this project, the city wants to set up two new employees to strengthen the social fabric of the neighbourhood.
One person, the square connector, must bring all partners in the neighbourhood, from residents to entrepreneurs and associations, into better contact with each other. And a second employee, the peer coach, will strengthen the assistance for the most precarious target group of square users.
“We also don’t lose sight of the drug nuisance. Just like last year, we will start in 2022 on a structural approach to street deals and the upcoming events. The neighborhood operation made more than a hundred arrests in this neighborhood in 2021. We will continue to do so,” says Bart De Wever.
Especially heroin and marijuana
Drug use is a problem that is not limited to Sint-Jansplein. There is a drug problem. Dealing is often centralized at the Elisabeth pre-metro station in Sint-Elisabethstraat.
Nearby, police have been authorized to carry out systematic identity checks. An approach that has been used for some time to tackle the drug problems around the pre-metro station.
Over the past year, the neighborhood support team of the Antwerp neighborhood police has checked around 746 the preme station ‘Elisabeth’ as well as open and around Sint-Jansplein. 188 results obtained. In total, more than 176,000 euros in money and especially drugs were confiscated during those interventions.
During the checks, 1.1 kilograms of heroin, 7.5 kilograms of marijuana and hashish were seized. More than six hundred grams of cocaine and 380 ecstasy pills were also found at the dealers.
Better lighting and a nicer square
“In the first half of this year, interventions will be carried out to improve the quality of life on Sint-Jansplein and its appearance. We will also inform all local residents about this this month,” continues Bart De Wever.
Interventions are mainly made in the infrastructure on and around the square. The three visitor entrances and the entrance to the underground parking garage will be decorated with applied stickers. Children from four primary schools in the area complete a total of eighty drawings that will be placed on the utility cupboards.
Furthermore, all light fixtures on Sint-Jansplein and in the side streets will be replaced by sustainable LED lighting, which improves the feeling of safety. APCOA, the operator of the underground car park, will also install LED strips in the entrances to the car park.
Finally, the city of Antwerp will install larger garbage bins and improve the green areas on the square. New cameras will also be installed and the urinal will be examined to determine whether it can be placed in a better place.