Amsterdam's ‘flashy car’ approach works
For the Amsterdam authorities, the luxury lifestyle of anyone without a job and a clear indication they are involved in criminal activities is enough to prosecute. It’s a successful crime-fighting method now set to be adopted countrywide. By Eric Hesen
They cause a tremendous amount of annoyance. Youths in large, expensive cars, gold chains and an attitude like no-one can touch them. And no-one could. That was until the police in Amsterdam started the so-called flashy car approach three years ago. The rest of the Netherlands now wants try the successful crime-fighting method.
Every police officer knows them. Young criminals who like to display their wealth, but no-one knows where the money comes from exactly. Up until three years ago, police had to start a long investigation into what crime youths like this had actually committed, before they could start a different procedure to try to confiscate the ill-gotten fruits of their crimes.
With the flashy car method the Amsterdam police no longer have to do this. The luxury lifestyle of anyone without a job and a clear indication they are involved in criminal activities is enough to prosecute.
In the statute book it says someone is guilty of money laundering if his money or goods are the proceeds of 'any crime'. It does not matter what the crime was exactly, so it does not need to be proven. If the suspect is unable to explain how he came by the money for a new car, he runs a large chance of being prosecuted and having the car impounded.
The Amsterdam method is successful. In the three years since the project began, 22 people have been prosecuted and all of them have been convicted. Goods and money worth more than ten million euros have been confiscated.
Constabularies in other provinces have also started to notice its success. In Utrecht, Flevoland, North Brabant and Limburg similar projects have recently started.
But there is also criticism. Criminal law professor Ybo Buruma has told a number of regional dailies that there is a danger of tunnel vision or even a witch-hunt. Jeroen Poelert, one of the people who came up with the idea, refutes this, "We are really not going to check up on everyone in a dirty T-shirt who drives a big car."
Criminals hate this approach, says Mr Poelert:
"They usually start their criminal career for the money. And now they cannot flash it around. Most of them accept a prison sentence as an occupational hazard. But they don't like it when you get your hands on their money."
There is another advantage according to Mr Poelert. Now criminals make sure their wealth does not stick out.
"Young people look up at these machos with their flashy cars. Now that role model has been taken away."
10 March 2008
[Copyright Radio Netherlands 2008]