Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Amsterdam: Red Lights Go Out as Mayor Cleans Up City

The Red Light District in Amsterdam

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS -- The narrow streets of the Wallen have been a hangout for hookers and their clients in Amsterdam since the 17th century when the city was the hub of a global trading empire besieged by sailors and merchants.

But the scantily-clad women posing seductively in Amsterdam's red-lit windows will have to find another place to tout for business after a public housing corporation sealed a €25m (£17.5m) deal to buy 18 buildings and their 51 windows – a third of the total – from a brothel kingpin.

The writing has been on the wall for parts of Amsterdam's red light district ever since the city's mayor, Job Cohen, pledged to clean up the downtown back streets, swapping seediness for sophistication and replacing the neon lights and window prostitutes with stylish shops and eateries,

"There's just too much sex in this part of the city," Mr Cohen said. The mayor denies wanting to rid Amsterdam of prostitution altogether – a move which would create enormous headaches for tourism authorities, as well as denting the city's revenues. But he is concerned the surfeit of sleaziness is turning the area into a mecca of drug dealing and petty crime.

"It is not about chasing prostitution of the Wallen," the mayor said. "What we do want is to get rid of the underlying criminality."

Under pressure from Mr Cohen, the city refused to renew the brothel operating licences of "Fat" Charlie Geerts, one of the wealthiest sex bosses in Holland...


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