Unrest at the IBB: “My girlfriend was terrified”

It already went wrong during the day on December 31st. UU student Tim was outside with some of his roommates playing with fireworks on the lawn in front of his house at student complex IBB. They felt “cheeky”. The atmosphere and mood were good until he saw something burning next to his box of fireworks. The Physics & Astronomy student bends to see what is burning. Suddenly there is a loud bang. His ears ring. He sees how two young boys cycle away in a hurry. It was not his fuse that was burning in the grass, but heavy duty fireworks that had been thrown towards Tim and his roommates. The students call the police. Tim: “The police came by, drove around. They could not do more than that.”

When the new year started, Tim and his roommates were watching the fireworks outside. “Suddenly there was a group of twenty boys between the ages of 10 and 17 at the IBB. And just like that afternoon, they threw fireworks at us. I shouted: ‘Stop acting crazy, man! Before you know it, we’ll lose a hand or a foot.’ I was angry because I thought it was dangerous what they did. Then I probably scolded at them, but I do not remember that anymore. I responded in an impulse. But instead of yelling something back to us, one of them kicked against the side of my knee. Suddenly I was lying on the floor. Then eight boys or so dived on me and kicked me. I think I was given twenty kicks against my back and head."

Fortunately, my roommate is a big guy of two meters tall

"My girlfriend was there and she was terrified. She thought they would stab me. Those guys got very aggressive out of nowhere. She tried to pull me away with two roommates when another housemate came to help. He is a big guy of 2 meters and sent that group of boys away. Later I heard that ten minutes later, 15 meters away, another student was kicked unconscious. And that the boy who wanted to help him, was attacked as well. That only stopped when the police came. Then the group of boys ran to Sterrenwijk.”

“When I woke up on New Year's Day, I felt the pain on my knee, back and head. Everything hurt. Furthermore, the screen of my mobile phone was broken and there was a rip and a big blood stain in my jeans. So, the first day of the year was a bad day.” This is a feeling that Marlon, UU alumnus and IBB resident, recognizes. When she goes to the place where she parked her car after New Year’s, it is gone. “That was a shock. When I was panicking around with a roommate, an IBB resident came to me. He said: “If you are looking for your car, it probably exploded.”

New year had indeed been more turbulent

He said that he had seen that boys from Sterrenwijk had been tampering with the cars. I heard that they had broken the car window and then thrown in fireworks. I have no idea whether those accusations were justified, but I have heard the story from several IBB residents.” The damage to the car appears to be “not that bad” according to the garage. Not her Opel Agila had exploded, but the car next to hers. “But because my car also suffered considerable damage, it was also towed away. One of my windows broke because of the blast and I have a lot of paint damage. That makes my car absolutely worthless, but it still drives. And you cannot say the same about the other car.” In retrospect, Marlon finds it stupid that she had left her car on the IBB with New Year's Eve. “That is asking for problems.”

To the SSH, the landlord of the rooms at the IBB, only one incident was reported that took place during New Years at the student complex. Nevertheless, according to spokesperson Madelon van Gameren, it looks like the turn of the year was “more turbulent” than in previous years. The SSH does not want to indicate what information the landlord relies on and whether it concerns the nature of the incidents or the number of incidents.

According to Sjoukje Volten, spokesman for Mayor Jan van Zanen, two reports were filed during New Year's Eve of abuse at the IBB, where in one case the victim's phone was stolen. “In addition, several vandalisms were committed in the vicinity of the student complex.” Who is responsible for this is not yet established by the municipality. "There was a group of young people present at the IBB which partly consisted of young people from Sterrenwijk and who caused a turbulent atmosphere. However, the police have not been able to establish that they, or individuals of the group, are the cause of the vandalism or the abuse.”

The passage to the IBB is free for everyone

Tim does suspects that this group is responsible, and thinks the reason for the more turbulent turn of the year is that the railway tunnel between Sterrenwijk and the IBB was not closed. In previous years, that connection route was obstructed with a sea container, the student remembers. As a result, nobody was able to easily come to the IBB from Sterrenwijk. According to SHH, this happened for the last time two years ago. According to Van Gameren, the measure is outdated because there are no trains running on the railway between the student complex and Sterrenwijk. “The passage to the IBB is therefore free for everyone.”

That is why the SSH, together with the municipality and police, looked at which other measures could be taken. Municipal spokesperson Volten: “Prior to New Year a look at the student complex took place in order to clean up matters in the public spaces in time and prevent vandalism. In addition, two community police officers were employed in the late evening and night and were deployed specifically at this location. They had contact with both the students and the young people and approached them on unauthorized behaviour when they saw it.”

Van Gameren of the SSH adds: "We have informed residents prior to New Year by mail at which times fireworks were allowed to be ignited, how they could reach the police and that it is strictly forbidden to get on the roofs. We also asked the residents to raise fire stairs so that they can only be used in case of emergency. In order to prevent burglars.” Tim does not believe the last measure. He and his housemates sometimes tried to bring the fire escape up, but that was heavy and did not feel safe because you had to lean over an edge. And even when the stairs were taken up, people still managed to pull them down from the street again.

Some people say that this is part of living at the IBB

According to Marlon and Tim, the incidents of New Year's Eve are not isolated events. They feel that boys, who are from - which they suspect – Sterrenwijk, have caused nuisance at the student complex more often. Marlon: "Sterrenwijkboys are a household name on the IBB. There are occasional stories about young people hanging around who would be responsible for puncturing bicycle tires, broken cellar windows and scolding matches.”

Residents alert each other on the Facebook group of the student complex: “Warning for [house numbers]. I just saw three Sterrenwijkboys climb down the fire escape. I do not know if they have been inside, but the window was open on [house number]. So be alert!” “ Sterrenwijkboys are having time off again and are messing around at the IBB. Pay attention to your stuff !!!!!” “Dear IBB, today we ran into Sterrenwijkboys who converted bike handles into a kind of shooting guns. So pay attention to your bike!”

Tim: “In the past six months, I have already been bothered five times at the IBB by these kinds of boys. For example, I was recently scolded by a boy of about 13 years old and he tried to smack my phone out of my hand. Another time, a housemate and I were pelted with ice balls by ten boys. When we said something about it, those guys followed us to the supermarket and waited there. We thought: If we go outside now, we will be beat up by them. A few of my roommates also have that kind of experience. One of my female housemates does not dare to cross the street in her Ajax outfit, because every time she is verbally assaulted heavily by Sterrenwijkboys. Some people say that this is part of living at the IBB. But it's not normal for these kinds of things to happen and that I feel less safe on the street.”

No notifications in the past two years

The SSH does not recognize the image that the students paint that there has been unrest on the IBB for some time. “We did not receive any notification of this”, according to Madelon van Gameren. The municipality is aware of incidents, says the spokesperson of Mayor Jan Van Zanen. This involves throwing eggs or pebbles against the windows and provoking and scolding students. However, these notions date from two years ago. Spokesperson Sjoukje Volten: “From the municipality, there is regular contact with the SSH and the students about all kinds of subjects, such as public space, safety and traffic. In the recent contacts, the nuisance experienced by young people at the student complex has not been discussed. Other matters were discussed in the consultations. For example, requests have been made for adapting the design of the public space such as placing an extra paper container and improving the bad roads.”

That there would be an increase in nuisance, the municipality of Utrecht does not see in its contact with students and the number of reports that is being made. “In the past 2 years, no reports of nuisance at the student complex have been received directly to the municipality.” According to Volten, however, the number of complaints, reports and declarations does not always say everything. That is why she emphasizes that the municipality takes the comments of Tim and Marlon seriously. “We are prepared to have a discussion about this to know which nuisance is experienced, but also about what is needed to prevent it. For this, it is important that the residents invest in each other, over and over.”

We encourage residents to contact the police

The residential board of the IBB has indicated that it does not have the impression that more or fewer incidents have occurred on the IBB during New Years. Furthermore, they did not want to comment on this matter in substantive terms. However, the board encourages residents to report incidents to the police and the SSH. The student housing provider also emphasizes this. At the moment, there are two reports of public violence (assault) done. Marlon has decided not to file a complaint against the boys who caused damage to her car, because her Opel was not the target of the “arson.” Tim did make a report with the police against the boys who had abused him.