by VR Sreeraman on  December 7, 2008 at 10:05 AM Lifestyle News
Amsterdam Plans to Halve Brothel Windows, Coffee Shops To Curb Crime
Amsterdam plans to halve the number of prostitution windows and cannabis-vending coffee shops in its historic city centre in a revamp it hopes will curb rising crime.

"The ambition is to turn (the city centre) into a safer, more beautiful and liveable area," states a strategy proposal released by the city council on Saturday.

Hot on the heels of a country-wide ban on hallucinogenic "magic mushrooms" and plans by some cities to close their coffee shops, this is the latest example of a hardening in the traditionally liberal Dutch approach to issues including prostitution and soft-drug use.

The blueprint states that "there will still be room for the sex industry and coffee shops, albeit in clearly manageable locations" throughout the heart of the capital city.

Some 240 of 482 prostitution windows will remain by the time the plan is completed in ten years' time.

"The lifting of the ban on brothels in 2000 gave government an opportunity to take firmer control of the sector," said the document.

"But the last few years have shown that additional measures need to be implemented to ensure that abuse in the sector can be countered and prevented effectively."

As for coffee shops, establishments with special licenses to sell cannabis, it is hoped to close up to half of those currently in the city centre - meaning a 17 percent reduction for the city as a whole.

The Netherlands decriminalised the consumption and possession of under five grammes of cannabis in 1976. Its cultivation, however, remains illegal.

"We also want to reduce the number of smart shops (that sell hallucinogenic herbs and other soft drugs), phone shops, minimarts, massage parlours, sex shops, sex cinemas, sex gaming halls, peep shows, souvenir shops and head shops. There are too many in this area at the moment."

The document said they had been proved to attract and feed criminality.

"There are indications that they serve as a cover for money laundering practices. Furthermore, the drugs issue and women trafficking are important reasons for the strategy."

Source: AFP

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