Antwerp's war on drugs
Antwerp is cleaning up. First prostitution and organised crime, and now drugs. Jon Eldridge reports.
Eager to avoid a reputation as a drug haven, the city of Antwerp is quietly launching a series of measures designed to cut the inflow of illegal narcotics and drug-buying tourists.
Antwerp is confident it can win the fight
against drug trafficking
"A port city will always be prone to drug traffic, but I think that when we combat it effectively, the drug traffic will move," said Ludo Van Campenout of the Vlaamse Liberales en Democraties (VLD).
"The city is dealing with the problem of prostitution and organised crime, and we see, for example, this moving to cities like Liege, Charleroi and even the coast."
The Mayor's office is also optimistic. "We are trying to keep our city clean," a spokesperson for the mayor said, acknowledging that the city is attracting an increasing number of drug-seeking tourists like those who once favoured Amsterdam and other cities in the Netherlands.
According to the police, narcotourists from France are the big problem because the heroin available in Antwerp is considered to be cheaper and better than that available in northern France. Antwerp police said they have already beaten 13 organisations that supply drugs mainly to French women.
Officials prefer to carry out low-profile operations. One of the first measures is a closer check on incoming trains and vehicles, a measure that helped the Dutch police reduce the incidence of drug-trafficking and possession in Rotterdam.
Antwerp City Council members are confident that the steps they are taking will be as successful as those in Rotterdam, but officials are aware that they are moving the problem, not solving it. "I think it is moving away from Antwerp, but I don't know where it is moving to," said Van Campenout.