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7. Environment and anti-social behaviour

Environmental infringements and anti-social behaviour affect the physical and social urban ecosystem. However, they proceed from different social logics and occur at different levels. There are two sides to environmental crime. Firstly, there is organised crime, fraudulent in nature, which seeks profit to the detriment of the environment and public health. This form of environmental crime is the least directly visible to the public, but it nevertheless constitutes a real source of harm and the National Security Plan regards it as a serious crime. Its fraudulent aspect links it to the topic of economic and financial crime, and it can involve significant unfair competition. Secondly, there are unorganised forms of environmental crime which find expression locally. Anti-social behaviour, as a “factor in urban life the public manifestation of which leads to feelings of insecurity and is expressed by environmental damage and a breakdown in social ties” is rooted in this neighbourhood dimension, in accordance with the Law of 24 June 2013 on municipal administrative sanctions.

Environmental crime covers all the infringements of the legislation and, therefore, regional powers in particular. It entails the destruction, pollution, damage and change of the physical environment in terms of the air, water, soil and noise. It therefore concerns biodiversity for its intrinsic value, but also affects the well-being of citizens and public health.

Environmental crime includes:

  • All forms of damage to the environment through non-environmentally sound processing, the removal and mixing of waste, hazardous products and clandestine disposal;
  • Failure to respect the standards for air and noise;
  • Environmental fraud, expressed in the abuse of tax breaks or subsidies;
  • Keeping protected animal and vegetable species;
  • Harm to animal welfare;
  • Failure to respect public space, damage to the public or natural heritage;
  • Offences against planning and heritage laws.

A significant number of the environmental crimes represent infringements of the Brussels spatial planning code (CoBAT), under the Law of 12 January 1993, which extended the concept of the environment to planning, heritage and housing. 

The most common infringements in the Brussels Region concern, in addition to structural conversion and development works to buildings without permits, changes in the use of buildings that are contrary to the land-use plan (PRAS) or to the last authorised use, the subdivision of buildings, and the conversion of workshops, warehouses, shops or housing into schools or places of worship.

Offences against planning and heritage laws can cause a range of environmental problems in terms of noise pollution (clubs, dance halls), visual pollution (changes to buildings that are inconsistent with good management), insecurity (instability of illegal buildings, activities in spaces that do not meet the standards), poor sanitary conditions (non-compliant housing with attics and cellars).

Committing these infringements is encouraged by:

  • Economic interests, extracting the maximum profit from a building, and money laundering in property operations;
  • The shortage of housing and demographic pressures encouraging slum landlords and the supply of substandard housing;
  • The duration and complexity of the permit processes, and the "fait accompli" policy.

The municipal administrative sanctions (SAC) aimed at reducing anti-social behaviour mainly focus on parking offences, cleanliness and contamination, waste and dumping, disturbance and damage to property