The residential towers at Zuidas are real eye-catchers, housing wonderful apartments with large balconies and terraces. Great places to live but as Zuidas is pretty quiet in the evenings, it is a challenge to guarantee safety on the streets for local residents. Cue the newly-established Zuidas Nighwatch.
It is Monday morning and there is a real buzz around Intermezzo, one of the stunning buildings here at Zuidas. We meet Emile Rietveld (35), first resident of this stately building and chairman of Intermezzo’s Property Owners Association.
We talk to Emile to discuss a new initiative he started: giving people living at Zuidas area the same feeling of security one could expect in a village or a suburb. “Due to the high-rise buildings and the fact that Zuidas is pretty quiet in the evenings, that’s a bit of a challenge”, he honestly admits.
It is no secret that thieves like to hang around Zuidas. And that’s pretty logical, Emile says. “One way or another, the area offers rich pickings. A lot of famous Dutchmen and other successful people live here. They have money, expensive stuff. Plus there is much less social control and that creates a fertile stomping ground for malicious people. But we do our best to fight that!”, Emile hastens to add.
So he came up with Avenue Services – The Zuidas Nighwatch. “In other countries, having a professional neighbourhood watch is quite common. With the international appeal of Zuidas it was only a matter of time until a collective monitoring system would be introduced here as well.”
“It starts with discouraging people who have wrong intentions. We do that by being visibly present, also in the evenings and at night, and talking to people on the street, asking them what is going on – these are things thieves and burglars don’t like. This is what happens automatically in other neighbourhoods with a higher level of social control and more people on the streets at night. We don’t have that here so we’ll need to create such an atmosphere.”
Emile’s security professionals will be moving around the area on a… Segway. “I’d like to call what we offer a Concierge Plus service. A concierge in a building has a relationship of trust with the residents; he knows them and helps them or visitors to and from their car or the train station, for example.”
He continues: “The space around Intermezzo and the nearby area is actually too small to monitor by car. By patrolling on a Segway, we are agile, relatively fast (around 12 miles per hour) and we stand a little bit taller. We will be doing our rounds from 10 pm to 6 am. These night guards, myself included, will be keeping an eye out in this area”, he explains.
He has already completed a few test rounds. “It struck me that not all the entrance doors to the buildings are locked. Well, that’s just asking for trouble. When we run into suspicious-looking fellows or people who have no reason to be here at night, we’ll approach them. If they have bad intentions they usually disappear out of sight very quickly.”
Professional social control
This new security initiative has been met with enthusiasm by local business owners and the residents of Intermezzo and the surrounding buildings. “These people and their property deserve to be well-protected. Thankfully there is money to realize this kind of professional social control. This service is a collective supported by the local business owners and residents. They all benefit from this system”, Emile says.
He has so much confidence in this new way of creating a safe environment that he has said goodbye to his old career in order to launch Avenue Services. “I used to work in the aviation and telecommunications industries as a consultant on risk assessment and incident investigation. I have a lot of knowledge of risk control and safety, plus I have a good network.”
Good social skills
At the moment he is busy building his team. “We are carefully selecting people to carry out these shifts. As we are not a traditional security company, professional training in security is not a hard requirement. What we do expect, however, is a good eye for suspect behaviour, good social skills and a willingness to approach people. You could say we are a human level of crime prevention, alongside monitoring cameras and other – invisible – security measures.”
Emile emphasizes that his ‘Segway riders’ will not intervene in case of any wrongdoings. “No, they will immediately contact the police. The municipality and the police are fully behind this concept. Our cooperation with the police has already proven successful as we recently managed to help the police to arrest three burglars in Zuidas area.”
photo Katja Mali