Surprising safety told by ex-juvenile criminal and cyber agent Roozy

Undermining crime: drug gangs that recruit young people in the neighbourhood to go on the drug trial for a lot of money. It is an increasingly pressing problem. Insecurity on the Internet also seems to know no bounds. During the theme conference of the Embassy of Safety, Mohammed Hedi, an expert from first-hand experiences, and Roozy, a primary school pupil and cyber agent, told their stories. Their message? Together we can achieve surprising safety.

Type Update
Published on 21 October 2021
Part of Embassy of Safety
Surprising safety told by ex-juvenile criminal and cyber agent Roozy
Part of Embassy of Safety

Mayor Jorritsma of Eindhoven put it in his opening speech at the conference: How do you fight the temptation to earn money quickly and to get involved in crime? “Crime is also present in Eindhoven, with the curfew riots in January as the blackest page in my administrative career. A city where on the one hand there is prosperity. Design, technology and knowledge reign supreme, but on the other hand, there are also youth gangs. Purely and simply because young people come into contact with the wrong friends, grow up in a certain neighbourhood or – and I am afraid to say this – have the wrong surname. You see neighbourhoods where young people drive around in big boxcars. As a boy – or sometimes girl – you look at them and think: I want that too. Why should I go to school, get up at the crack of dawn every day? The money is literally on the street.

Jorritsma herself started mirroring, stocking and “bagging” for, at the time, one guilder seventy-five an hour at the Albert Heijn. “Now young people are recruited at ROCs and colleges to spend an evening in a cannabis farm for 500 euros. Do that two nights a week and you come home with a lot more than your father and mother.”

The municipality of Eindhoven is making structural funds available to tackle subversive crime, says Jorritsma. “But it is a means, it is about the plans and the executive power to spend those means.” Earlier, the municipality hired designers to work with them on how to convince young people, who are exposed to all that temptation, not to choose crime. It is difficult to make the results of the plans measurable, says Jorritsma, “but in some neighbourhoods, a degree of peace and quiet is beginning to return”. “There is less nuisance and therefore more social return. I just can’t put that on a balance sheet.”

After the January riots, Jorritsma spoke with one of the biggest rioters, Dennis, also known as TK. He was arrested shortly after the riots and went to jail for four months. The mayor learned Dennis’ story. Dutch-Moroccan parents, father never known, mother who left him at the age of six, moved from family to family. “Totally messed up, everyone took their hands off him. He went from bad to worse. He grew up with the idea that you never tell the police what you did. It was a culture of hear, see and speaking no more. Now Dennis wants to share his story, to save others from his mistakes. He is one of my frontliners in the neighbourhoods to hold up a mirror to the youth.”

Mohammed Hedi (links) - Embassy of Safety Conferentie

Dwight van de Vijver and Mohammed Hedi also tell their story about how they want to counteract the young recruits. In 2008, Van de Vijver was the police officer who arrested Hedi, then a notorious criminal. Van de Vijver now works at Reclassering Nederland and makes television programmes. Last summer the former police officer and Hedi appeared in a documentary¬†about Hedi’s life. Van de Vijver: “What drives me is the love for people.”

Hedi, now 29, grew up in the Utrecht district of Overvecht. It was a busy house with four brothers. He was on the streets a lot, had a talent for playing football, was selected for FC Utrecht and played six months for PSV. Yet something went wrong, Hedi was unruly. He was sent away from school in the 4th grade. In group 7, he received, totally unexpected, a pre-university recommendation. But he continued to go his own way and kicked against everything. Boarding schools followed and later also juvenile prisons. He was locked up six times.

Hedi discovered the fast money of the drug world and had several cars, a penthouse in Amsterdam and a house in Utrecht. “That mayor (Jorritsma, ed.) had it right. It seemed as if he had experienced it himself. Only, I got 5000 euros for three nights of sleeping in a cannabis farm.”

During the conference, Hedi bravely tells his story, sometimes with a joke. He is now a personal trainer and trains Dutch celebrities, lawyers and judges in the Gooi region. “When they know about this, they all cancel their subscriptions.” He knows how to touch the audience, afterwards questions follow. “Why did your daughter, who had just been born, make you choose the other way?” “Are your friends from back then still your friends? Or from the municipality of Zaanstad, which together with the municipalities of Arnhem to Amsterdam, participates in the Embassy Lab called Young Growth: “What could the municipality have done at the time to help you?” A question Hedi cannot answer. “The problem is money. My parents couldn’t give me even 5 euros. My desire is still money. It is an obsession. Young people don’t want that money later, they want it now.” Hedi wants to save young people from his mistakes, to be an example, to show them that crime doesn’t pay, it doesn’t benefit you in the end.

The Embassy of Safety is starting the Embassy Lab ‘Young Recruit’. During Dutch Design Week 2022, curator Tabo Goudswaard hopes to show what the municipalities of Zaanstad, Arnhem and Amsterdam have done to combat this growth.

A very different kind of insecurity is the insecurity on the internet. The Rathenau Institute’s report ‘Online Unsafe’ provides insight into the underlying mechanisms that contribute to online unsafety. Wouter Nieuwenhuizen is one of the authors and takes the visitors into the not “always clear twilight zone”. Online shaming, sock puppeting – pretending to be someone else -, cyberbullying, phishing, doxing. Nieuwenhuizen: “What we want is to make the internet an attractive place. To redesign it.”

Valerie Frissen, director of the SIDN Fund, which invests in projects with guts and social added value, says that her foundation wants to help designers who want to do something about the safe online world. During the conference, she will be calling on designers to come forward, so that together we can make the step to a wider audience.

HackShield is one of the projects Frissen supported. Designer Tim Murck and cyber agent Roozy climb on stage to add a cheerful note. Murck blasts into the audience that the internet and the digital future are fantastic. Primary school pupil Roozy assists him. Murck: “Actually, it’s the same in the digital world as in the physical one. If we do not create equal opportunities, it will remain a complicated story. Billions are being earned from cybersecurity and millions are being spent on it, but meanwhile, there is still no digital literacy at her school (pointing to Roozy, ed.). That’s embarrassing, there’s something very crazy in our society. We as a bunch of designers want to make a world where children are not potential victims, but superheroes.”

In a game, children learn about the digital world and collect points. Partly by teaching their parents something. There are now almost sixty thousand so-called cyber agents or superheroes. Roozy is number three. Last week was the HackShield event and the team launched HackShield for the classroom and HackShield for adults. Why for adults? Roozy: “Because you know nothing about the dangers of the internet.”

Murck: “It’s a sincere attempt to be more robust as a society when it comes to cyber resilience. We must all do more to give the young generation every opportunity to reap the benefits of the digital world. That all kids, for example in Overvecht, learn at an early age how to set up cool webshops. How to use the Internet to build the best future for themselves that you can imagine.

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