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The CAL-SPORA Luxembourg (CSL) athletics club
QUESTION POSED BY TOM KRIEPS
CAL-SPORA Luxembourg (CSL) is so popular that children must be placed on waiting lists. On 25 October 2020, the club was notified by the Luxembourg Athletics Federation (Fédération luxembourgeoise d'athlétisme – FLA) that a new club had been created: "Liichtathletik Club Lëtzebuerg" (LIAL). It is regrettable – although permitted by the updated articles of association – that this new club was approved by the FLA's steering committee without having first discussed the matter at a general meeting. CSL has waiting lists because of the limited capacity of the sports facilities it has access to. The new club trains at the Athénée stadium on Boulevard Pierre Dupong, which appears to be a temporary arrangement. Was the municipal administration approached by the new club? What would be the City's position if it were to receive a request from the LIAL to use City-owned sports facilities? Does the College of Aldermen share the opinion that increasing the number of athletics clubs will only put more pressure on the City's sports facilities, which are limited, especially since the loss of the Josy Barthel Stadium? What is the status of the athletics stadium project in Hamm?
RESPONSE PROVIDED BY SIMONE BEISSEL
The City was not notified of the plans to create the LIAL. In a written request to the Service Sports (Sports Department), dated 12 October 2020, the LIAL asked to be given access to sports facilities. On 14 October, the Service Sports responded that there were no time slots available, and that the LIAL would need to submit their request to the College of Aldermen. A request was duly submitted on 20 October.
All of the City's sports facilities are being used at 98% of their capacity. The FLA's updated articles of association do indeed state that new clubs can be affiliated without the requirement to hold a general meeting. On 26 October 2020, the FLA chairwoman was notified that the City does not currently have any facilities that could be made available to the LIAL. The next day, the LIAL received the same information and was advised to look for facilities in the area around Luxembourg City.
Due to the current shortage of facilities, particularly for athletics, creating new clubs, or splitting existing clubs to form new ones, is not advisable at this time. The new track at the Institut national des sports (National Sports Institute – INS) will soon be available for athletes on the national team. CSL has 650 members. More than 400 of their members are under 26 years of age, and many of those are children and adolescents. The Josy Barthel Stadium is being used at nearly 100% of its capacity.
The City has plans to build a new stadium in Hamm, but there are a number of obstacles: the site in question is located in a land-use plan zone, and the land will need to be reclassified in the general development plan (plan d'aménagement général – PAG). Environmental impact studies have been conducted as part of the land-use plan. The land-use plan will be completed in 2021. Once completed, the PAG can then be amended. The question of access has not yet been resolved, chiefly due to the proximity of a spring-protection zone.
The City of Luxembourg's hiring of a private security firm to patrol the Gare district
QUESTION POSED BY CATHY FAYOT, CHRISTA BRÖMMEL AND GUY FOETZ
On 26 November 2020, we learned with dismay that the College of Aldermen had decided – without notifying or consulting the municipal council – to hire a private security firm to patrol the Gare district and the city centre during December 2020 and January 2021.
The Minister for Internal Security (Ministre de la Sécurité intérieure) found that this decision was unlawful, as the protection of public order is exclusively the responsibility of the State and the Grand-Ducal Police. The Law of 12 November 2002 on the activities of private security firms (loi du 12 novembre 2002 relative aux activités des sociétés privées de gardiennage) limits the work of such firms to surveilling personal and real property, managing alarm monitoring centres, transporting funds and valuable items, and protecting people. Consequently, the argument that the College of Aldermen sets out in its press release of 27 November 2020 – that "the duties [of private security officers] are clearly to help residents feel safe by providing a preventive presence, which the College of Aldermen hopes will deter perpetrators of crimes or uncivil behaviour" – does not diminish the illegality of this undertaking. Luxembourg's lawmakers have entrusted this duty of maintaining public order solely to the police. This duty is performed by the general administrative police.
The Minister for Internal Security said on RTL that he had not been notified in advance of the City's intentions and that "the activities in question are the exclusive remit of police officers – who have been specially trained for this purpose – and private security firms are not authorised to perform police duties".
The Minister for Internal Security also said on radio 100,7 that there was no coordinated cooperation between the Grand-Ducal Police and a security firm to maintain order in public spaces, and that this fell within the exclusive purview of the Grand-Ducal Police.
The argument put forward by the College of Aldermen – that it would be acting within the scope of its remit since, further to a motion passed at the municipal council meeting of 13 July 2020, it was tasked with "considering other measures aimed at providing a presence in Bonnevoie and the Gare district to accommodate the needs of the support services, users of public services, and residents and business owners in the districts affected by the dialogue" – even demonstrates a certain disdain for the municipal council.
What specifications have been established for the duties assigned to the private security firm? What exactly is the role that has been assigned to the private security firm, and which department is it accountable to? What are the College of Aldermen's expectations as far as this project is concerned? What data is the College of Aldermen relying on to claim that hiring a security firm can provide a sustainable, legal solution that respects human rights? Has the College of Aldermen consulted the social partners on the ground? Was there prior dialogue with the Minister for Internal Security, the Minister for Home Affairs (Ministre de la Sécurité intérieure) and the Minister for Justice (Ministre de la Justice)? Why didn't the College of Aldermen notify the municipal council about this project?
RESPONSE PROVIDED BY THE MAYOR, LYDIE POLFER
The security firm's officers may in no way be considered an auxiliary police unit, nor may any of the other personnel who are active on the ground, such as those involved in the "À vos côtés" initiative.
The position adopted by déi gréng and the Minister for Internal Security (also a member of déi gréng) is ambiguous in this matter, given that for the last 18 months, the City of Differdange – whose mayor is also a member of déi gréng – has also employed a security firm that operates in public spaces. Just today, the College of Aldermen of the City of Differdange publicly took a position on RTL, providing statistics – 1,100 interventions since the start of the initiative, with the police intervening 150 times – and stating it was satisfied with the security firm's work. We fail to understand how the Minister for Internal Security could say that it is illegal for the City of Luxembourg to hire a private security firm, yet assert that he was unaware that the City of Differdange was doing precisely this. At best, the Minister is applying a double standard.
The appropriateness of the measure no longer needs to be proven in light of the crime statistics in the Gare district. Following a large public meeting on 25 September 2019, the number of police officers was significantly increased. The increase in police presence eased the situation, particularly with regard to drug-related crimes. During the lockdown imposed to halt the spread of COVID-19, it has become more difficult for the police to control the situation.
On 24 June 2020, there was a lengthy discussion in the Chamber of Deputies with the relevant ministers and representatives of the Public Prosecutor's Office. During that session, it was acknowledged that the situation had deteriorated and was as dire as in September 2019.
The police cannot solve this problem alone – other parties also need to do their part. According to a representative from the Public Prosecutor's Office, the courts are now much less strict about prosecuting certain offences than they were several years ago. On 10 November 2020, the police notified the City's Comité de prévention communal (Municipal Prevention Committee) that the situation had got even worse. It was announced that additional legal resources would be allocated to the police to address these problems, but the police has not received them.
There are residents who carry pepper spray because they fear they might need to protect themselves in public spaces. This state of affairs is unacceptable. At a meeting on 12 November 2020, the College of Aldermen and the police presented up-to-date statistics to the Union commerciale de la Ville de Luxembourg (Luxembourg City Business Association – UCVL), which reiterated its grievances.
On 13 November 2020, the College of Aldermen voted to issue a call for tenders in order to hire a security firm to provide a preventive presence in the Gare district and the city centre, on a temporary basis, during the months of December 2020 and January 2021. It indisputably has the authority to make such a decision. The presence of the security firm's officers helps make residents feel safer.
On 23 November, the College of Aldermen awarded the contract to the security firm that submitted the cheapest tender, which coincidentally is the same firm that is working in Differdange.
On 24 November, there was a meeting with the Grand-Ducal Police, a lawyer for the City of Luxembourg, representatives from the Service Espace public, fêtes et marchés (Department of Public Spaces, Festivals and Markets) and the aforementioned security firm to determine how information would be communicated. That evening, after the meeting, the mayor toured the Gare district with Henri Kox, Minister for Internal Security, Maurice Bauer, Alderman for social affairs, and police representatives. The police expressed frustration that numerous offences are booked and recorded, but that many of these offences are not prosecuted in court.
Only the police is authorised to enforce public authority. In 2016, during discussions on the City's hiring of security firms in other places, former Minister Félix Braz said that "when it comes to the hiring of security and surveillance firms by the City of Luxembourg, it is not the Government's role to comment on or assess the decisions taken by the municipal authorities". Therefore, the City does not need to seek the minister's authorisation to introduce such a measure.
The scope of the remit of security-firm officers is stipulated in Article 43 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Code de procédure pénale): "In the case of obvious crimes or offences subject to imprisonment, any individual has the authority to apprehend the perpetrator and escort the perpetrator to the nearest officer of the Criminal Police Department". It is also stipulated in Article 410-1 of the Criminal Code (Code pénal): "Any individual who wilfully refrains from assisting or seeking assistance for someone who is exposed to serious danger, when such assistance would not endanger the individual or anyone else, shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a term ranging from eight days to five years, and/or to payment of a fine ranging from €251 to €10,000".
The Minister for Internal Security is probably aware that he reacted hastily, although he agreed that the security firm's officers could, of course, operate in public spaces. However, he failed to appreciate the fact that these officers carry out patrols in the district. A videoconference between the College of Aldermen and Minister is scheduled for next Friday.
The under-staffing of the Grand-Ducal Police is all the more regrettable given that the number of police officers allocated to the capital does not take into account the fact that 40% of all offences committed in Luxembourg are committed in the capital. Other cities, such as Ettelbruck and Echternach, have also hired security firms.
The Syndicat des Villes et Communes Luxembourgeoises (Association of Luxembourg Cities and Municipalities – Syvicol) recently issued a press release reiterating that it is up to municipal authorities to take all necessary steps to ensure public security, stressing that "the assessment of a specific situation is based on the principle of municipal autonomy, which is enshrined in the Constitution. Syvicol recognises that security is a concern shared by many municipalities, and it believes that the action in question reflects a legitimate concern held by elected representatives. Thus, municipalities are merely acting within the bounds of their legal authority by exercising their general administrative police powers". Syvicol "stands ready to work with the Government to seek solutions to the security issues faced by municipalities".
The "Montagsrunde" referred to in the urgent question put to the College of Aldermen deals only with issues directly related to the "Abrigado" organisation and its immediate surroundings. The City of Luxembourg is a role model when it comes to social and preventive action. On 15 December 2020, the people involved in the "À vos côtés" initiative began receiving training by the police, and they will reach out to residents and business owners to help improve the situation in the Gare district. Security firms are also working in the City's shelters – at the request of the associations that manage them – in order to handle challenging situations that may arise there. The outcome of the two-month trial period will assessed in February 2021 by the relevant advisory committee and then by the municipal council.
This is not an all-encompassing agreement, but rather a simple contract entered into following a public-procurement procedure. A similar contract was entered into with a security firm two years ago to provide a presence in parks during the evenings. The security firm's officers notify the police when they are faced with a situation that requires police involvement. On 24 November, it was noted that the officers report daily to the City of Luxembourg and weekly to the Grand-Ducal Police. As regards statistics, the City of Luxembourg will follow the practice of the City of Differdange, i.e. it will disclose the statistics on the total number of interventions and the number of police interventions.