'Police can no longer handle the lawless jungle after dark in Amsterdam’ - ombudsman
As dark descends on Amsterdam, the Dutch tourist hotspot turns into an “urban jungle” where the police are powerless to handle crime, violence and drug trade, Arre Zuurmond, the city's ombudsman, warned.
"The city center becomes an urban jungle at night," Zuurmond told Dutch paper, Trouw. "Criminal money flourishes, there is no authority and the police can no longer handle the situation."
Drugs are being sold openly in the streets, pedestrian areas are used for car and bike races, there’s widespread theft and other offenses, the ombudsman said, using the world “mayhem” to describe what’s happening in the city.
Earlier, Zuurmond set up three CCTV cameras at the busy Leidseplein square ringed by bars and clubs, which is located in the south western part of the city center. The facts exposed as a result of his surveillance experiment turned out to be quite depressing.
"One night we counted 900 offences, mainly between the hours of 2:00am and 4:00am. The atmosphere is grim, and there is an air of lawlessness," the ombudsman told Trouw. "Scooters race through the pedestrian areas. There is a lot of shouting. Drugs are being bought. There is stealing,” he said, adding that police often do not even try to intervene.
"There is violence but no action. You can even pee on the van of a mobile [police] unit and the driver won't say anything,” Zuurmond said. He also described the situation at the square at night as “intolerable lack of authority.”
The notorious Red Light district streets, which are “packed” with crowds of revelers in the evenings, also witness a high crime rate. Human trafficking has become a particular source of concern for the local authorities as it even prompted the municipality to launch a special project aimed at combating the issue as well as reducing the overall crime rate. However, all the efforts have been largely to no avail so far, the paper reports, citing the assessment made by the Amsterdam city court.
The problems deepen as they continue to spread across the city, Zuurmond warned. He particularly drew attention to the fact that some 2,000 illegal taxis are now roaming the streets at nights for fares. The city also has a flourishing black market with racketeers dealing with wads of cash. “Shadowy money is everywhere in the city center,” the ombudsman said.
The tense situation is partly a result of government policy, Zuurmond explained. “The government has deliberately stimulated tourism after the economic crisis, but [it] has forgotten to… take additional [security] measures.”
According to Dutch media, the problem that currently plagues the capital of the Netherlands might in fact be part of a larger issue. In the Netherlands, there are around 160,000 people who have been “irrevocably convicted” but have managed to avoid punishment, Trouw reports, citing data provided by the municipality of Amsterdam.
According to the ministry of justice, more than 12,000 out of the 160,000 have to serve a custodial sentence. About 10 percent of such convicts fleeing justice reportedly reside in Amsterdam, where they can actually apply for a new passport virtually without any background checks. As a result, hundreds of alleged “street criminals” just “disappear.”
Amsterdam welcomes 18 million tourists every year – more than the total population of the Netherlands. The city has recently been hit by a string of violent incidents. In late June, a motorcycle gang member was arrested after he allegedly fired an anti-tank missile at an office building which houses a magazine publisher in Amsterdam. Just days later, a van crashed into the head office of daily newspaper De Telegraaf in the Dutch capital, in what police believe was a deliberate attack. Neither incident resulted in casualties.
Last week, a Briton was shot in the head outside a café in Amsterdam by a fellow national in what police described as a gang feud. An international manhunt was launched after the incident. The shooting victim remains in the hospital in stable condition.
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