Drugs and crime in the Netherlands
By RNW.nl – June 2001
Drugs and drug use are inevitably linked to crime. Possession of drugs is illegal and dealing and large-scale trafficking are serious offences. The latter is mainly the business of organised crime. Big money is involved and profits are high.
Combating large-scale drug trafficking is top of the list of priorities for the Dutch Public Prosecution Department. New legislation has come into force to counter money laundering and to confiscate financial assets of convicted drug dealers.
Financing the Habit:
Drugs and crime are also linked because a lot of drug addicts need to steal in order to finance their habit. It is this procurement crime that bothers the public most about drugs: the petty crime of street muggings and small thefts. In Amsterdam no bicycle is safe from junkies, who know how to open every lock ever invented. Car radios were popular trade too, until manufacturers equipped them with security devices. A small group of hard core junkies is responsible for the majority of these offences. Dealing with them involves intensive co-operation between the police, the judicial authorities and the addiction care sector. They use theso-called compulsion and dissuasion approach: when arrested some addicts are given the choice between serving time in prison or undergoing treatment. The threat of detention is used as an incentive to treatment. The treatment primarily aims at kicking the habit, and if successful at social reintegration. No details are available yet about the effectiveness of this approach.
It is not only because of crimes against property that drug addicts come into contact with police and judicial authorities. Their maladjusted behaviour causes public order disturbances and creates a nuisance. They often lead a lifestyle of vagrancy and prostitution and tend to hang out round their trade locations, like city centres and train stations, where they make the public feel unsafe. They can be barred from gathering in certain places or areas, only for them to start hanging out somewhere else. Authorities increasingly try to pressure these addicts to undergo treatment, although no one in The Netherlands is forced to kick their habit.
Nuisance caused by coffee shops is comparable to that caused by bars and is therefore left to the municipal authorities to deal with.
A separate issue is drug tourism. Especially drug runners are cause for concern (it is their job to lead likely prospective buyers from the border to the drughouses in the cities). They are particularly active on the Lille-Antwerp-Hazeldonk-Rotterdam route and get rather nasty and violent. Dutch police co-operates closely with their Belgian, French, German and British colleagues to combat drug tourism and drug runners. In recent years a more active deportation policy has been pursued for foreign drug addicts residing illegally in The Netherlands.