Expatica news

Police hiring escorts to catch illegal prostitutes

23 January 2004

AMSTERDAM — Police officers arranging meetings with female escorts in hotel bedrooms sounds like a major corruption scandal. In fact, it is fully sanctioned by the authorities as a novel method of catching foreign women working illegally as prostitutes in the Netherlands.

In recent months, Dutch police have stepped up operations against illegal prostitutes.

Amsterdam City Council voted last year to close down the Theemsweg streetwalking zone after police claimed it was being taken over by foreign women without work permits and serious criminals.

The police also occasionally round up women working the street and deport those without the proper papers.

But catching people working illegally in the closed escort agency industry and their employers has been more problematic, until now.

“Hiring (an escort) is a very effective approach,” Piet Hijnen, the leader of Eindhoven’s prostitute control team told daily newspaper De Volkskrant.

“Owners of escort bureaus always say that they work according to the regulations, but the reality is often different.”

In recent weeks, his detective team have hired the services of 12 women working for escort agencies and asked them to come to a hotel room or a rented house.

Half of them did not have a work permit and four, from Eastern Europe and South America, were in the country illegally. They have been deported.

One of the women was an asylum seeker and one had been granted a temporary residence permit as part of an investigation into human traffickers.

The investigators work in couples — one male and one female officer. They hire a hotel room and ring a mobile number to hear what the target escort agency has to offer.

“The officers don’t mention any preferences — such as for a very youthful woman from Africa or someone who speaks Russian — because that would be incitement,” Hijnen said.

The prostitute is always admitted to the room by the male officer, while his colleague waits in the bathroom. Once the prostitute enters the room, the police officers reveal their identity and the woman is asked for identification papers.

One escort agency has already lost its operating licence after falling victim to the police trick twice. But Hijnen conceded that the operation has not uncovered any human traffickers or women forced into prostitution.

The police plan to use the new method more frequently because Hijnen said “escort agencies must learn, just like brothels, massage parlours and the red light windows, to stick to the rules”.

Since 2000, prostitution has been fully legal in the Netherlands and advertisements for prostitutes and escort agencies appear in several publications, including the country’s largest-selling national newspaper De Telegraaf.

There are also street signs advertising escort agencies in the bigger cities.

Prostitutes must be legally allowed to work in the Netherlands and must pay tax, including the BTW service tax. But many of the escort agencies are run by criminals via a mobile phone.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news