London, December 27 (ANI): Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen has drawn up a dramatic downsizing plan to prevent Europe's most tolerant city from criminal gangs and an excess of sleaze-closing half of the city's prostitute windows.
His plan is to reduce the continent's most open red-light district, sprawling over Amsterdam's entire historic canal district, to two main streets.
He has also revealed plans to close a fifth of the city's cannabis cafes and a number of sex clubs.
Cohen, however, denies that there is any design to end the permissiveness that draws in thousands of tourists every year, many from Britain.
The former Rector of Maastricht University, who resigned as the Deputy Justice Minister in Wim Kok's Labour Government to become mayor of the city in 2001, insists that he does not want Amsterdam to be recognised as a hotspot for sex and drugs.
He says that he instead wants the city to be better known for its art, chamber music, and museums.
"The tolerance, which we in Amsterdam are proud of, is not the same as indifference," Times Online quoted the 61-year-old as saying.
Cohen highlighted the fact that more than three quarters of the city's 8,000 to 11,000 prostitutes were from Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia to suggest that international organised criminals were taking over.
"Prostitution is legalised in the Netherlands and that is OK. In the last few years we have also seen a lot of women-trafficking and women forced to be prostitutes against their will, and therefore we want to have more control. If there is control, there is transparency. If people think they cannot do it legally so they will do it illegally, we will go after them," the mayor said.
The union of prostitutes, known as the Red Thread, has accused Cohen of using a crackdown on criminal activity as an excuse to reverse years of tolerance.
The union argues that the prostitute windows are much safer because women can deal with clients directly without having to rely on pimps.
Cohen, however, insists that studies have shown that pimps were still active.
"It is not that we want to get rid of our red-light district. We want to reduce it. Things have become unbalanced and if we do not act we will never regain control. At the heart of this project is our desire to drive back criminality and make the city welcoming for everyone," he said. (ANI)