Monday 10 August 2020

Amsterdam is not lawless jungle, but it does need more police, says new mayor

Police tour the red light district during the day, when it is quieter. Photo: Graham Dockery

Amsterdam’s mayor Femke Halsema says more police and street wardens are needed in the city centre to keep the crowds of tourists and partygoers under control.

The mayor told the Telegraaf she would do her utmost to persuade justice minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus to increase the number of police operating in the city’s red light district and popular nightlife areas.

Halsema was given a tour of the city centre on Friday night and told the Telegraaf that the city is not the ‘lawless jungle’, as suggested by ombudsman Arre Zuurmond  in an interview with Saturday’s Trouw.

In that interview, Zuurmond re-iterated comments he made in March about the ‘absence of authority’ in the city centre.

Tourist draw

‘At the moment, the number of police officers is based on the number of people who live here. But we are a major tourist draw and when measured in terms of the number of tourists, we have too few police and wardens,’ Halsema said.

Zuurmond, whose interview comments were picked up widely in the foreign press, told the Volkskrant later that the main problems in the city centre are the rise in violence and anti-social behaviour, the shortage of police officers, the huge amount of criminal money in circulation plus illegal taxis and rental boats.

‘If the red light district is full, then at given moments it is impossible for the police to get through,’ he said. ‘You can’t chase a criminal who is getting away. If there is a fire, you can’t reach it. If someone has a heart attack, the ambulance can’t get to them.’

Right-wing political parties have called for street wardens to be given batons and pepper spray to increase their effectiveness in controlling the crowds. However, this is opposed by the left-wing majority on the city council.

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