Over the Easter weekend, the city announced, 69 people were apprehended for breaking various drug and public order laws, and 54 were banned from the area. Almost half of the arrests were for selling fake drugs: 10 suspects will appear before judges in the short term, four have been fined, and the other cases are being investigated by public prosecutors.
Meanwhile, city hosts, big screens and a social media campaign are warning visitors about the risks of bad drugs, robbery and deception by street dealers, while the city has increased camera surveillance of former ‘blind spots.’
Drug experts have already welcomed the campaign. Martha de Jonge, senior project leader in drugs prevention at the Trimbos Institute told Dutch News that it was important to have a complete strategy and broadcast a clear message to tourists.
‘In general, we know that environment has an important role in drug use,’ she said. ‘If there are a lot of dealers on the street, that leads to drug dealing and use, because there is more availability but also because the atmosphere of the street has changed. Having a lot of dealers on the street can also suggest to tourists that drug use is very normal in Amsterdam – three reasons to campaign against street dealers.
‘Tourists sometimes seem to think that everyone in the Netherlands uses drugs, when it is only a small part of the population.’
She added that it is important to help vulnerable people who might be dealing drugs to find other jobs, as well as co-operating with bars, restaurants and cafes and changing the idea that ‘anything goes’ in Amsterdam. ‘We need to re-brand Amsterdam so it is no longer a party city,’ she said.
Mayor Femke Halsema announced earlier this month that in the new city coalition, she wants to push ahead with plans to regulate the coffeeshops that sell cannabis, enforcing a national law that means only residents can buy – something that is likely to spark conflict between political parties.
There are also controversial plans to move the red light district to a purpose-built erotic centre as part of a scheme to restore balance in the city centre, after years of concerns about over-tourism.
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