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Dutch mayor gets death threat after closing down coffeeshop

By Adriana Stuijt     Mar 9, 2009 in Crime
Proving police claims that cannabis-dealing coffeeshops draw violent criminals, a mayor 's life was threatened when he ordered a coffeeshop closed down Thursday. After years of tolerating drugs-tourists, the Dutch now are cracking down hard.
Mayor Han Polman of Bergen op Zoom on Monday asked police to investigate a death threat targetting him after he had ordered the four-month closure of a local coffeeshop called Miami, which is conveniently located right next to the bus terminus. The town is only a few kilometres from the Belgian border. After petitions from 26 Belgian mayors to close the coffeeshops down, Bergen op Zoom and neighbouring Roozendaal agreed, and recently decided to close down all its coffee shops because of the growing criminality in surrounding suburbs.
Last week, Bergen op Zoom police arrested more than 60 drug-dealers operating in the streets.
The Dutch are now discovering that it is very difficult to dislodge the criminal drug-dealing fraternity from their streets, which over the years have become entrenched and very rich because of the previous Dutch policy of "'tolerance' towards marijuana-dealing in so-named 'coffee-shops'. Often, these drug-dealers have the money to hire the best lawyers and advocates in the country to stop mayors from closing down their increasingly disreputable and seedy establishments.
Best-paying tourists stay away because of seedy coffeeshops
A decision was recently made by the central government however to rid the country of the growing criminality and also reduce the streams of negative tourism publicity -- which keep the much better-paying family-oriented tourist groups away from some of The Netherlands most beautiful and historic cities. Amsterdam was the first city to crack down on all the coffeeshops in its red-light district - which police found were being run by powerful, international criminal gangs specialising in sex-slavery and drug smuggling. see
The Netherlands has over the years turned its tolerance towards soft-drugs into a massive cash machine, for instance just one small border town, Terneuzen, just a ferry trip away from Belgium, earned 1m Euros in parking income from drugs-tourists, some 10m Euros in traffic fines and another 10m in earned income from its coffee shops last year alone.
However the negative impact of this drugs-tolerance policy now is coming home to roost: Dutch cities with coffeeshops are getting a very seedy reputation internationally with the better-heeled tourists - mostly family-oriented travellers who spend up to a week or more in the cities, instead of the drugs-tourists' quick hops across the border for a few joints each week.
Last week, the mayors of two border towns near Belgium -- Bergen op Zoom and Roozendaal - also announced that all their coffeeshops will be closed by September 16 this year.
Until that time, said Polman and Roozendaal mayor Dr. J.H. Klein Molekamp, the police were asked to crack down hard on any illegal drug-dealing activities on the streets. In their 'one strike and you're out' principle coffeeshops found breaking the laws, only get one official warning.
Drugs-tourists have a positive image of us...
"The positive image which drugs-tourists have of Bergen op Zoom and Roosendaal as cities were softdrugs can be sold, must be reversed,' said Polman. The municipalities have launched information campaigns through the Belgian media, letters, flyers and internet sites informing drugs-tourists "that our towns will not tolerate this any longer.'
"We are also coordinating our policing efforts with the ministry of Internal Affairs, and the provincial and municipal authorities of Antwerp in Belgium. Thus Belgian drug-dealers who are picked up on the streets of our cities will be taken to Antwerp for trial and incarceration," they said. see
Coffeeshop-freaks not happy:
The Belgian self-named 'coffeeshop freaks' writing on various pro-marijuana websites are increasingly unhappy about this new 'intolerance' by the Dutch authorities, writing on their websites that 'Miami is an ok shop. If you only come there once you'll probably won't get a lot of weed compared to the price your paying, but if you come there often and they start to know you it really isn't that bad of a shop..." They have a choice of about 7 brands of ganja and about 5 brans of hash. The big boss of the shop isn't too friendly, but his two helpers are usually very friendly. A great advantage of Miami is that it's practically the first shop you meet when entering Bergen Op Zoom and it's located 5 seconds from the busstop. All in all this is a great shop if you come there often and become a regular customer. I tried a lot of other shops, but keep coming back to Miami, so that says a lot..."see and here
The threat "Death to Han Polman' was found scrawled on the closing order posted by the police on the closed shop's door on Saturday-morning. Police are examining security camera tapes at the moment.
Coffeeshop Miami was ordered closed for four months because it had far too much cannabis on its premises, said Polman. A municipal spokesman said the mayor 'does not feel himself hugely threatened', but still wants the local police to investigate.
Arrested more than 60 dealers last week
The town now has only one of its original four coffeeshop still operating. This past weekend, police also arrested five drugs-tourists and drug-runners.And last week, the police here also rolled up more than sixty dealers who were hitting the streets selling illegal drugs. see
More about Coffeeshops, Dutch, Crackdown, Red-light district, Prostitution
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