The Shallow Man has been trembling with excitement at the prospect of attending the art of brick exhibition at the Amsterdam Expo. The exhibition presents sculptures made entirely out of lego, something that naturally appeals to a man whose appreciation of culture begins and ends with low-fat yoghurt.

I recently received the following message from a reader. “Shallow Man, I’m a lover of food, and I am on a quest to find the perfect hamburger. I’ve visited over thirty countries and the Netherlands is the fourth country that I’ve lived in. So, I decided to find the perfect Dutch hamburger. I was pleased to see that there is even a telephone service that you can sign up to which sends the latest tips and info for such things. I am confused that since subscribing, instead of receiving updates on gourmet burger places, that I’m constantly getting messages from the Police to be on the lookout for criminals and lost children. Shallow Man, what is going on?”

For the reader and anyone else that may have been confused by the naming used, the reader in question has signed up to Burgernet. Whereas in most countries the public relies on the Police to catch criminals, the Dutch authorities have cleverly attempted to turn Henk and Ingrid normal citizen into (unpaid) extensions of the state. Why invest in more Policemen, that require training, salaries and pensions,  when you can have an SMS based service that asks the public to tip off the Police every time a crime occurs. It’s a much better use of resources. Was your smartphone snatched out of your hand in the street? Don’t worry the Police will send out text messages to the millions of Burgenet subscribers with detailed and helpful information such as “look out for two lightly tanned men on a scooter, near the Rijksmuseum, they have stolen an iPhone 5s.”

they are not black two female Zwarte Piets on Burgernet

Police are looking for two black girls seen handing out sweets to children in the Maasstraat

If you have dark skin colour and are on a tram, and find yourself being stared at by an old lady, don’t worry, she’s not out to get you out of your bespoke three-piece suit, in fact, she’s just received an alert from Burgernet that the police are looking for a donkere man, kennelijk Afrikaans. Ok, he wasn’t wearing a three-piece suit when he committed the crime, but who knows? You can’t be too careful. Yes the crime took place in Amsterdam Zuidoost, and you’re in Amsterdam Zuid on your way to dinner with a hot Antelope, but Inspector Oma knows best, watch as she reaches for her phone and calls the Amsterdam Police.


There’s a black man in my street, better check Burgernet

I’ve yet to see any meaningful statistics that Burgernet actually reduces crime, however, it gives housewives, old people and the long term unemployed a nice warm fuzzy feeling that they are doing something for the greater good. Over a million people throughout the Netherlands are subscribed to this service and are happily keeping their eyes open and ready to call the Police as soon as they are alerted. So if you have random Dutch people staring at you in the street (have you ever noticed that Dutch people really stare?) then don’t be alarmed, it’s for the good of society, you might match the description of someone on Burgernet!


No amateur detectives were hurt during the writing of this post.