“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.”