Source: Sunday Times (UK) Contact: Sun, 03 May 1998 Date: 3 May 1998 Author: Peter Conradi AMSTERDAM IN PURGE ON SEX AND DRUGS FOR many visitors to Amsterdam, the most startling sights have long been the "coffee shops" where marijuana is openly sold and the "window brothels" that display prostitutes like mannequins. But the sex and drugs capital of Europe is undergoing a purge to rid itself of its reputation as a city where anything goes. Nearly half the 400 cafes that supplied soft drugs have been shut down on the orders of Schelto Patijn, the forceful mayor, mostly on the grounds that they have broken rules governing the amount of stock on the premises or have traded hard drugs. The crackdown has also hit the brothels that had thrived in the red light district for almost 400 years. Inspectors were dispatched to ensure that the brothels complied with hygiene regulations and employed no illegal immigrants. Some of the 200 proprietors have given up the game: more than a dozen buildings have been sold to the city authorities and turned into homes. "It is clear that this is a liberal city which still allows and will always allow quite a lot," said Patijn last week in his office overlooking one of the city's canals. "But we let things go a little too far - we found we had lots of illegal underage prostitutes and that most of the coffee shops were dealing in Rolex watches and hard drugs." A port city, Amsterdam has traditionally looked outwards to the world. Since the 1960s its free and easy attitude to sex and drugs has attracted countless young people. However, the burgeoning growth of both industries also spawned squalor and crime. Many of the narrow cobbled streets that run through the centre of the city have become dilapidated and scarred by graffiti. Large numbers of prostitutes arrived illegally from the former Soviet bloc or from Third World countries, often against their will. Street crime rose by more than a third in the first few months of this year; theft of motorbikes and Amsterdam's ubiquitous bicycles rose by 60%. The city has also suffered from growing tension within its immigrant community. Hundreds of Moroccans fought a street battle with police last month after one youth was arrested. The busy central railway station, where drug addicts have preyed on commuters and tourists alike to feed their habit, is one of seven areas where a state of emergency was declared by the authorities last month. "Travellers coming through just don't feel safe here any more," said Henk Klaver, who has run a catering business in the station for 15 years. In an effort to improve security, the authorities have ordered those addicted to injected drugs such as heroin to "shoot up" at specially established centres. Anybody who repeatedly breaks the rules faces imprisonment. Plans are also under way to build "treatment prisons", where criminal addicts will be made to give up their dependency on drugs. The mayor, a senior member of the Labour party led by Wim Kok, the Dutch prime minister, even banned street musicians from much of the city centre, although he cancelled this initiative after an outcry, claiming he had signed the order by mistake among a pile of documents prepared by his officials. Despite the other measures, Patijn, who has run the city since 1994, remains a liberal at heart, laughing off comparisons with the so-called "zero tolerance" policy pioneered by Rudolph Giuliani, the mayor of New York. "Zero tolerance means nothing," Patijn said. "The moment Mr Giuliani started fining people who walked across the street diagonally and not straight, even the police started laughing. "I don't belong to some right-wing sect that wants to forbid all sin in the world. But I want it to be crystal clear about what is allowed. I'm not trying to reform this city; I am just trying to put certain things right."