Noisy behaviour, stolen bicycles, drunkenness and urinating in public: students have their own kind of criminal behaviour. EM went along with the police in Rotterdam for a night to see what actually goes on. “Of course it’s a good thing that not a lot happened, but we do enjoy a bit of action now and again.”

22.30. Officers are given a briefing.

Each time before they go on duty to update them on current cases, missing persons and other
important matters.

”There’s a party in student disco Bikini tonight with 300 students from Utrecht, so we can expect some excitement.” We make a tour of the city with an officer and a sergeant – let’s call them Charlotte and Freek – last Thursday night to get an idea of students from the police point of view.

23.00. complaint about noise made by students at a party.
The police get a lot of complaints about noise and other types of nuisance because Bikini is
right in the middle of a residential area. And they always go along to see what’s happening after each report. But everyone is behaving themselves very nicely tonight. “Some residents have had enough and they complain about the least little thing. But it’d be better if they made
a formal complaint to the municipality instead of ringing us. The municipality’s the one that
gives students permission to have a party.”

As we drive through Kralingen, we are told that the students have obviously spent most of their grants. This is because it’s remarkably quiet for a Thursday night in Rotterdam’s biggest student district. “But it’s different at the end of the month when their money arrives,” says Charlotte. “They come out of the pubs and they’re so drunk they just lie about on the ground or urinate against the houses. And of course people complain.” If the police tackle students about their behaviour, they respond a bit differently to the average citizen. “They’re studying law, or their mother’s a lawyer,” Charlotte explains. “And they always point out their rights and claim we can’t take them to the station. We just laugh about it.”

Red light

At about 02:30, a young lad suddenly appears next to the police car. “You’ve got to help me,” he articulates with difficulty. “They’ve….. they’ve … knocked me about….”. He is too drunk to look at Freek but he tries once again to explain. “I’m going rampage soon,” he goes on. “All right, just tell us what happened,” Freek says soothingly. “Like I said, I’m going to go berserk, this is too much.” But a member of the Rotterdamsch Studenten Corps soon appears on the scene. “This lad will take over, he’ll help you,” Freek tells the inebriated student reassuringly.

02.30. An inebriated student appears at the car window.

A student who’s completely legless suddenly appears at the car window while Freek and Charlotte are keeping the departing guests under observation. “It’s obvious there’s nothing wrong with him  apart from being drunk,” says Freek. So he has no qualms about  handing the lad over to the student committee members who are already coming over to help him.

At the end of the night, another two lads drive past unsteadily on a scooter. Charlotte expertly manoeuvres the police car on to the cycle track, goes after them and breathalyses them. The result is that the driver – a student – has to go along to the station. He gets into the car resignedly and says: “Yes, I’ve had too much to drink, but I can still drive. I wouldn’t have done it if I thought I couldn’t.” “But you went through a red light and didn’t even realise,” Charlotte points out. “Doesn’t that show you’re not in a fit state to drive?” The student decides not to reply and sits staring glumly at his phone.

04.10. Careless driving.

A car weaving about on the road and making a U-turn at a spot where this isn’t allowed prompts
Freek to check the registration number, while Charlotte has a chat with the driver. He’s tired out,
which is why he’s driving so carelessly. And the car isn’t insured or had its MOT either, so the driver has to leave the car there. “And we’re overlooking the fact that he made a U-turn and didn’t even signal.”

04.30. Drunken driving on a scooter.

Two lads weaving about on a scooter near the police car. They go through a red light on the
Erasmusbrug and are breathalysed by the police. The test shows that the alcohol level in the driver’s blood is way over the limit. So he has to go along to the station for a further test.

04.40. Back at the station.
On arrival at the station, the police inform the scooter driver of his rights, and ask him to empty his pockets and stand with his hands against the wall so that Freek can frisk him.

04.45. Second breath test at the station.

The lad, who is a student, has to do a second breath test. He is resigned and does as Freek and Charlotte ask him. “Well, that’s the law, isn’t it,” he sighs. “But my parents will be so disappointed.”

Bit of action

And how do things go in Bikini? As it turns out, the situation there is perfectly respectable at 05.00. Freek tells us that if people living nearby do have trouble with students, this is usually caused by too much noise and public drunkenness: “And the fact that students are drunk means they get robbed or their pockets picked more often,” he explains. “They weave about all over the pavement with their phones in their hands. Easy enough for thieves to snatch the phone and run off with it.”

05.30. Time for Freek and Charlotte to go off duty and go home.

It was rather a boring night for them. “Of course it’s a good thing that not a lot happened. That means we’re doing our work properly,” says Charlotte. “But we do enjoy a bit of action now and again. After all, that’s why we chose this job.”