AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) — Amsterdam unveiled plans Saturday to shutter up to half of its famed brothels and marijuana cafes as part of a major cleanup of its ancient city center.
The city says it wants to drive organized crime out of the neighborhood, and is targeting businesses that "generate criminality," including prostitution, gambling parlors, "smart shops" that sell herbal treatments, head shops and "coffee shops" where marijuana is sold openly.
"By reduction and zoning of these kinds of functions, we will be able to manage better and tackle the criminal infrastructure," the city said in a statement.
It said it would also reduce a number of business it sees as related to the "decay" of the center, including peep shows, sex shows, sex shops, mini supermarkets, massage parlors and souvenir shops.
The city said there were too many of these and it believes some are used for money-laundering by drug dealers and the human traffickers who supply many of the city's prostitutes.
Under the plan announced Saturday, Amsterdam will spend euro30-euro40 million ($38-$51 million) to bring hotels, restaurants, cultural organizations and boutiques to the center. It will also build new underground parking areas for cars and bikes and may use some of the vacated buildings to ease a housing shortage.
Amsterdam already had plans to close many brothels and said last month it might close some coffee shops throughout the city, but the plans announced Saturday go much further.
The city said it would offer retraining to prostitutes and coffee shop employees who will lose their jobs as a result of the plan.
Prostitution, which has spread into several areas of the center, will be allowed only in two areas — notably De Wallen ("The Walls"), a web of streets and alleys around the city's medieval retaining dam walls. The area has been a center of prostitution since before the city's golden shipping age in the 1600s.
Prostitution was legalized in the Netherlands in 2000, formalizing a long-standing tolerance policy.
Marijuana is technically illegal in the Netherlands, but prosecutors won't press charges for possession of small amounts and the coffee shops are able to sell it openly.
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