Coffee Shops, Bordellos to Close in Amsterdam Crackdown | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 08.12.2008
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Coffee Shops, Bordellos to Close in Amsterdam Crackdown

Prostitution and cannabis-vending in Amsterdam are to be curbed in an effort to clean up the city’s historic center, authorities announced over the weekend.

A youth smoking cannabis

Legal since the 1970s, cannabis coffee shops are being cut back

The city council's clean-up strategy will focus on Amsterdam's internationally famous red-light district.

The council aims to beautify the area and make it more fit for regular living and commerce by closing around half of the 482 prostitution windows and 76 licensed cannabis coffee shops in operation there.

The plan is set to be in full swing by 2018.

"The ambition is to turn (the city center) into a safer, more beautiful and liveable area," the city council said in a statement.

"Although the sex industry and coffee shops will no longer dominate the area, they will not disappear altogether," it added.

"This is part of Amsterdam's enormous strength, so it is important to ensure that the unique character of this district is retained."

Amsterdam council has already closed 109 sex windows, from which prostitutes lure customers, since it announced its initial clean-up plans a year ago.

Battling criminality

A woman with euro bills in her underwear

Human traffickers bring women to Amsterdam

Prostitution was legalized in the Netherlands in 2000. The consumption and possession of less than five grams of cannabis were decriminalized in 1976, although its cultivation remains illegal.

While liberal-minded Dutch have tolerated this contradictory system of cannabis being grown and dealt illegally to legal vendors, the planned Amsterdam closures -- and a spate of other measures taken by smaller town councils around the Netherlands to close all cannabis coffee shops -- mark a growing concern that the system is breeding crime.

"Money laundering, extortion and human trafficking are things you do not see on the surface but they are hurting people and the city. We want to fight this," Amsterdam deputy mayor Lodewijk Asscher told news agency Reuters on Saturday, Dec. 6.

The council statement said "low-level economic activities and crime-sensitive sectors" had become over-represented and were affecting the economic climate and living conditions in the red-light district.

"We still believe that regulation is a better solution (than banning), but we have allowed it to become too massive," Asscher said. "This is a necessary correction.

"We can still have sex and drugs, but in a way that shows the city is in control."

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