Project 1012 in Amsterdam's Red Light District has failed
In recent years there have been a lot of complaints in the media about the crowds of tourists in Amsterdam. The many cheese-, ice- and wafel shops that popped up all over Amsterdam. More burgerbars, more Nutella shops. At the same time in recent years the number of prostitution windows as well as the number of coffeeshops have been reduced heavily, as part of gentrification project: Project 1012, to 'clean up' the Red Light District. The neighborhood had to become livable again, less crime, less 'unwanted' businesses.

In a newspaper article yesterday in the Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool however it turned out that the situation in the neighborhood hasn't improved at all, in fact, it's just gotten worse. Where there used to be plenty of things to do for the visitors that came to the Red Light District, now it's largely disappeared. Now more than 25% of all the window brothels have been closed down by the city. Also the number of sexshops has been heavily reduced, plus they have to close down earlier at 10 pm, in stead of the 2 am like how they had it before. Bars and clubs close down earlier, meaning drunk people end up half way through the night on the street with nothing to do.

At the same time the number of coffeeshops have been heavily reduced by the city. Partially forced by the city government under Project 1012 (19 shops), partially using the argument that they can't be too close to schools (11 shops), to reduce drug use under the youth these days. Not that this has any effect, so researched in order of the mayor proved, because it turned out this had no effect at all, since people under 21 never went into coffeeshops in the first place because this is not even legal.

At the same time the number of street drugsdealers in the area is increasing. They see their chance to sell their stuff to tourists looking for some drugs after the coffeeshops are closed. After all, there are now far fewer coffeeshops than before and they close down early, but the demand isn't less, and so they see a brand new market opening up for them. The consequence is that there are much more street drugsdealers than before, that operate very aggressively.

The approach of the city towards the Red Light District, to reduce the so called 'unwanted' businesses, and replace them with 'high class' businesses has failed completely. Many of these so called 'high class' businesses don't last very long at all, move to another area because they don't make much money in the Red Light District, or complain in the media about the lack of customers for their shops. My gosh, who would've guessed that visitors of the Red Light District would not be interesting in fancy fashion and artsy stuff and other bullshit!

Meanwhile also the police station near the Red Light District has been closed down, and the police has moved to the other side of the city's center on the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal. Try and explain a drunk tourist in the Red Light District where that is! The situation has therefore become much less safe, with more fights, as also recent incidents have proven. A consequence of reducing the size of the Red Light District under Project 1012, closing down shops and bars earlier, causing drunk people to start hanging on the streets in the only area where there's still something to do: near the window brothels. With as a consequence that with more drunk people packed in higher concentrations hanging out on the streets having nothing to do, there are more fights.

The supervision of the police is besides that minimal. Many prostitutes complain about the lack of supervision from the police. We see how tourists have taken over the area, making fun of us, just coming there to watch us without any intention of going inside, while taking unwanted pictures of us that end up on social media. Police that is present often doesn't do much, and just hangs around on the bridge near the Old Sailors pub, staring at tourists, but barely doing anything. On top of that comes the fact that the city of Amsterdam is having financial problems, and has admitted that there's simply less money available for police protection. The consequences? Less supervision of the police!

Despite the financial problems however, the city still has plans to close down 37 more window brothels, closing down pretty much the entire Sint Annenquarter, and reducing the size of the Red Light District even further. The plans to close down 83 more windows already was changed to close down just 37 more windows due to financial problems. But with an even smaller area and less stuff to do, resulting in more people starting to hang on the streets in a smaller place, this will only cause more reason for conflicts. And although the buildings of the brothels that still will be closed down, will be bought by 1012 Inc., which isn't funded anymore by the city itself, the city is going to have to pay the brothel owners themselves huge damage payment for closing down their businesses, like how they've paid other brothel owners before.

That money could've been better spend on more police protection in the area, in stead of buying off brothel owners. Especially since the only result less brothels will have, is an increase in illegal prostitution, which again means more work for the police, for which they don't have the money. We've already learned from all over the country, that less legal prostitution doesn't mean it stops, it simply increases illegal prostitution. Also in Amsterdam this is the case, where since 2012 the number of illegal prostitution reports have almost doubled, from 41 reports in 2012 to 79 reports last year.

Meanwhile the policy of the city of Amsterdam for the Red Light District have created a more family friendly image. Less prostitution, less drugs, more art, culture and fashion is what they promoted the Red Light District with, if they promoted the Red Light District at all, which they often don't want to do, because they'd rather not promote the Red Light District at all. They wanted to get rid of the image of Amsterdam as the city of drugs and prostitution, something they obviously didn't succeed in, because still the area is being overrun by tourists, just now they come to party and drink, in stead of visit the prostitutes. On top of that they've gotten more tourists, since they promoted it for a larger audience, causing the Red Light District to be completely overrun by tourists that just come here to watch, and mainly causing more problems.

It's no wonder that things are going wrong in the Red Light District. More and more drunk tourists, in a smaller area, things closing down earlier, causing people to start hanging out on the streets earlier because there's nothing to do, in the only area which still is fun in the middle of the night. It's no wonder this is creating problems. Higher concentration of people in a smaller area with less things to do, under the influence of alcohol and (sometimes) dangerous drugs, with less police to uphold the law. Who would've guessed this could've gone wrong, right?

Dutch version
7 Responses
  1. Kevin Finch Says:

    So frustrating! What a mess the city has created.


  2. The right-wing idiots that are taking control of so many Northern European countries inevitably will not end up with a "cleaner" city, but a more repressive city. The American way. It's so obvious.


  3. Felicia Anna Says:

    @Isabel Arroyo actually Project 1012 was a social democratic project, not a right winged project. In fact, the right wing party in Amsterdam was one of the first parties to criticize this project, and wanted to quit it.


  4. Cliente X Says:

    Do u really think that project failed... or maybe this was exactly the real objective they had in mind?


  5. Anonymous Says:

    Recently went to Amsterdam I have been for the last 16 years, it so sad to see the city dying. The heart and soul of the city seems to almost be completely gone now, so many empty places. Never in 16 years have I been hounded so much by street drug dealers, there doesn't even seem to be any Dutch people in the city either. The way the city is heading it will end up a derelict ghost town. So sad :( Project 2012 has failed!!!


  6. Anonymous Says:

    One concern I have is that the authorities will use the anti-social behaviour that you describe in the area against you. "You see, so many more fights, aggressive drug pushers on the street, the girls being abused by camera wielding tourists, that's why we have to shut this place down. They have created the conditions to extend persecution. Jan van der Damm



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    Romanian prostitute working in the Red Light District in Amsterdam (De Wallen), speaking out for the truth behind prostitution. Blogging about prostitution, human trafficking, forced prostitution, politics and all the myths surrounding it. Member of PROUD, the Dutch union of sex workers.