Drugs policy in the Netherlands: Amount and nature
2. Policy on the use of hard drugs
2.1. Amount and nature
As stated above, the number of heroin addicts in the Netherlands is estimated to be about 25,000. This figure rises a little, to 27,000, if account is taken of what is probably a fairly large number of addicts who do not come into contact with the care services or the judicial authorities at all. As already pointed out, these estimates are by no means high in comparison with other European countries and even less so in comparison with the United States (cf. annex I).
The number of people addicted to primary cocaine has increased slightly in recent years but is still small*. The same can be said about the use of cheaper forms of cocaine.
Approximately 65 percent of addicts are in contact with care providers. It is estimated that three-quarters of the heroin users among these receive the substitute substance methadone on a more or less regular basis*.
The use of ecstasy (MDMA) by school pupils has increased considerably in recent years. In 1992 3.3% of school pupils aged 12-18 had used ecstasy at some time. Use is overwhelmingly occasional and recreational*. Certain groups of vulnerable young people, such as clients of the youth care services, use the drug more frequently*.
The use of ecstasy can result in serious, acute damage to health, such as overheating and dehydration, which can even on occasion be fatal. Serious liver and kidney damage is also possible. Because of these risks, ecstasy is classified as a hard drug. Other, less well-known "designer drugs" can also pose health risks. Rapid developments in the field of psychopharmacology mean that new "recreational" drugs are constantly coming onto the market. A positive trend is that the users of these drugs are becoming increasingly critical consumers who wish to take as few risks as possible.
Drugs policy in the Netherlands: Policy on the use of ecstasy
2.2. Policy on the use of ecstasy
Policy on ecstasy was set out in the memorandum on the subject issued by the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport (Lower House 1993-94, no. 23760) and discussed with the Standing Committee for Health, Welfare and Sport on 29 October 1994 and 14 June 1995. In the memorandum the Minister expressed her concern about the trend in the use of ecstasy and announced a number of policy measures. These comprise administrative measures, measures to enable the supply of designer drugs to be monitored closely and critically, further research into the harm such drugs can cause, and more public information.
In view of the fact that ecstasy and related drugs are widely used at raves and other large-scale events, the Minister has since drawn up a guide for municipal policy on such events (Stadhuis en House [The town hall and raves], 1995). It explains what options municipalities have in attaching conditions to licences, in order to combat drug use and the consequences thereof as effectively as possible. As regards monitoring the market in these drugs, the current monitoring system is to be expanded. Further research into the harm caused by designer drugs is to start soon. Developments in the use of these drugs demand that those concerned with public information and prevention should adopt an alert and dynamic attitude and to this end expertise in the field of prevention is to be promoted; in autumn 1995 a number of information activities will also get under way. For further details reference should be made to chapter 3, section 2.
Drugs policy in the Netherlands: Crime, nuisance and addicts
2.3. Crime, nuisance and addicts
The impression is sometimes given that responsibility for most nuisance and the vast majority of thefts and burglaries (often described as offences committed in order to acquire means of payment) lies with addicts, and that all addicts provide for themselves by committing criminal offences. This impression is far from accurate.
Some property offences can be regarded as opportunistic. Some are committed by adolescents who are poorly integrated into society, but by no means all of them are also drug addicts*. In addition, illegal immigrant status*, an addiction to gambling or, more generally, quite simply a luxurious consumption pattern which cannot be paid for from the offender's own resources, can just as easily result in this type of offence. The share of total crime - i.e. including that which is never solved - accounted for by drug addicts is estimated to be between 10 and 20 percent. There are a number of addicts who are particularly criminally active, who commit a great many offences (there is a great deal of recidivism) and who, moreover, often make no attempt to hide what they are doing; these people therefore come into contact with the police and the judicial authorities relatively often*. heir higher level of recidivism means that they feature prominently in statistics on people suspected by the police of offences. It also means that more and longer custodial sentences are imposed upon them. This accords with the fact that at present about half of the prison population are drug addicts. However, this should certainly not be taken to mean that half of all crime is caused by drug addiction.
According to recent research, a third of property offences which are cleared up by the police in larger towns and cities are attributable to drug addicts. They are indeed responsible for as many as half of five common property offences, such as domestic burglary and theft from cars. Over the country as a whole the figures are somewhat lower.
According to research conducted in the Netherlands and abroad many drug addicts - some experts suggest as many as fifty percent - were already committing offences before they became addicted to drugs*. As far as these people are concerned, crime and drug abuse are mutually reinforcing elements of an "unconventional" lifestyle. This probably also explains why it has been found that the provision of methadone to heroin addicts by no means always results in their ceasing to be involved in crime.
The share of crime accounted for by drug addicts comprises primarily common local offences: property offences such as domestic burglary, theft from cars, theft with violence, robbery in a public place and shoplifting (articles 310, 311 and 312 of the Netherlands Criminal Code)*. The next most frequent are crimes of violence, such as assault, threatening behaviour, murder and manslaughter and arms offences; less frequent again are sexual offences, traffic offences and economic offences. Crimes of violence can result in part from the fact that certain drugs cause people to act in a less inhibited manner but in this regard the misuse of alcohol is a much greater cause of crime. Addicts are also involved in drug trafficking at street level; they play virtually no role higher up in organised/professional drug trafficking.
Like common property offences, the problem of nuisance too is often attributed to drug addicts in too generalised and undifferentiated a manner. In many towns and cities the homeless, alcoholics, illegal immigrants, gambling addicts and psychiatric patients are equally responsible for nuisance and for engendering feelings of insecurity in the general public. The problem of nuisance caused by drug addicts is part, albeit an important part, of the broader problem of having large concentrations of socially-marginalised people in big cities*.
As part of the policy on the big cities the State Secretary for the Interior, acting also on behalf of the Minister for Social Affairs and Employment, the Minister for Economic Affairs, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Housing, Planning and Environment and the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport, has reached agreement first of all with the four biggest cities on a structural improvement in safety and the living and working environment in the most deprived neighbourhoods in particular. Similar voluntary agreements are being concluded with the other fifteen big towns. Central government has made a total of NLG 375 million available for the implementation of the plans over the next four years. The money is being used, inter alia, to finance integrated projects aimed at the social integration of young people at risk and neighbourhood projects to improve safety and the living and working environment in general. In addition, up to NLG 560 million has been reserved for an employment plan in the surveillance sector. This is evidence of the government's desire to encourage strongly the prevention of crime and nuisance in the big cities. It is to be expected that the agreements reached with the cities will serve as the foundations for an integrated approach to the problems of neighbourhood degeneration and nuisance.
The crime and nuisance problem caused by a few thousand addicts engaging in extremely anti-social behaviour on a persistent basis has now become so excessive that one way or another it must be tackled more effectively. The government considers it its duty to achieve visible results in this area in the short term since, on account of the small size of the target group, ways of doing so exist or must be identifiable.
Policy geared to detecting and prosecuting the small number of addicts who are highly active in crime could result in a decline in criminal nuisance. Such a policy will be promoted, in respect of addicts involved in crime and other groups. The care provided to tie in with this policy will also be adjusted, a subject which is discussed further in chapter 3, section 6.
Drugs policy in the Netherlands: Administrative measures to combat nuisance
2.4. Administrative measures to combat nuisance
In order to reduce the nuisance and number of property offences for which addicts are responsible, local authorities, the police, the Public Prosecutions Department and care providers will have to seek to influence the behaviour of those concerned in a consistent manner. Anti-social behaviour will be punished consistently and appropriate behaviour will be rewarded wherever possible.
An office to which the general public can report nuisance has been operating in the Westerpark district of Amsterdam for some time and it has produced some positive results. In many cases complaints about nuisance can be solved through mediation. This initiative is being extended to cover the whole of Amsterdam and deserves imitation elsewhere too. We shall encourage the setting- up of such offices in more places, in close cooperation with the police, the municipalities and institutions concerned with the care of addicts. Such offices could also provide support in the collective preparation of legal proceedings and in the provision of evidence. Where action has to be taken, the establishment of these offices will enable it to be done more rapidly and in a more coordinated fashion. It will also make it possible to identify which addicts are responsible for most nuisance.
A great many separate agencies are involved in tackling the problem of nuisance. This requires firm management which can cut through bureaucratic red tape.
The four big cities have proposed setting up a joint task force on nuisance caused by drugs, in cooperation with those government departments most affected, to consist of officials with a broad remit. The latter would be responsible for ensuring that administrative agreements were implemented according to a strict timetable and in a coordinated fashion by all local and central government departments involved. This proposal to pool resources as regards implementation too where necessary is in accordance with the policy on the big cities the government has embarked upon and a start has already been made on putting it into effect.
The task force, which will comprise not only the government departments concerned and the four big cities but in any event also the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG), representing the other municipalities, can be combined with the thematic group on safety which has already been set up to assist with policy on the big cities. The task force will be responsible for arranging for the implementation not only of the provisions on safety contained in the agreements with the big cities but also of the policy intentions and agreements on combating nuisance laid down in the present policy document.
The Steering Committee for the Reduction of Nuisance which was set up to implement the policy document on reducing nuisance caused by addicts (Lower House 1993-94, 22684, no. 12) and which is primary engaged in ensuring innovation in the care of addicts, will become part of the above-mentioned thematic group, which will henceforth be known as the Inter-administrative Task Force on Public Safety and the Care of Addicts. The Task Force will establish working parties to carry out specific duties and will be provided with a properly equipped secretariat.
Drugs policy in the Netherlands: Legal instruments
2.5. Legal instruments
Nuisance caused by trafficking in and using drugs on the streets can be tackled through general local bye-laws, such as a prohibition on the assembly of more than a given number of persons, or on the use of the public highway for purposes other than that for which it is intended. The use of emergency powers should be limited to situations in which there really is an emergency as defined in sections 175 and 176 of the Municipalities Act. In this connection reference should be made to the government's standpoint on the study of municipal emergency powers, which was communicated to the chair of the Standing Committee on the Interior in a letter from the Minister of the Interior of 21 March 1995.
Trafficking in drugs - particularly hard drugs - in dwellings causes a great deal of nuisance to neighbours. It is often flats or apartments which are involved, where neighbours have to put up with addicts coming to the building, and may regard the accompanying phenomena as threatening. It is not always the tenant who is trafficking; sometimes a tenant may be pressurised (and rewarded with small quantities of drugs for his or her own use) into tolerating the trafficking; in other cases the premises may be sublet or used illegally.
Where the property belongs to private landlords, especially housing associations, civil proceedings may be instituted to evict the tenant causing the nuisance. In other cases, where the property is owned by someone with an interest in the drug trafficking or by a speculator who is not interested in the well-being of his or her tenants, this may not be a solution. Prosecuting the dealer will often not prevent the trafficking being continued on the same premises by someone else.
Particularly in neighbourhoods where the social structure is decaying, there is a need to take steps to combat degeneration as a result of drug trafficking from private dwellings, no matter whether it is just beginning or has already reached a more advanced stage. Where residents report that this is happening, and the seriousness of their complaints can be confirmed by police investigations, it ought to be possible temporarily to seal a dwelling, until clients cease to seek out drugs there. At present this is only possible to a limited extent because under the provisions of article 10 of the Constitution a dwelling must remain accessible to its occupants and members of their family*. Under the same provisions, formal legal grounds are required before a dwelling can be sealed because such action is desirable on account of nuisance caused by drugs. An amendment to the Municipalities Act is therefore being drafted to make the physical sealing of dwellings possible. The violation of privacy which this will entail can be justified by the need to combat nuisance caused by drugs and by the notion that people who allow drug trafficking to take place in their home have to a large extent themselves violated the private nature of the dwelling.
Drugs policy in the Netherlands: Hard drug "tourism"
2.6. Hard drug "tourism"
Some nuisance is caused by addicts from abroad who are illegally resident in the Netherlands and drug "tourists" from neighbouring EU states. Drug users come to the Netherlands from Germany, Belgium, France and other countries to procure and/or use drugs. Drug tourism occurs in various municipalities along the eastern and southern borders of the Netherlands, such as Arnhem, Venlo, Heerlen and Maastricht, and in a number of towns further into the interior of the country. Some of these people use the drugs they have bought in the Netherlands, others take some home for themselves or others.
Hard drug tourism often goes hand-in-hand with aggressive recruitment methods (drug runners) and with intolerable nuisance in residential areas and town centres.
The battle against drug tourism on what is known as the Hazeldonk route (Hazeldonk being a border crossing between the Netherlands and Belgium), which runs from Lille, through Antwerp, to Rotterdam, is being carried out in cooperation with the French and Belgian authorities. Activities are being directed at both drug runners and drug tourism.
In 1994 over 800 drug tourists and drug runners were arrested. The work involved cost the Dutch police approximately 35,200 man- hours. Drug running on sections of the motorway in Belgium and the Netherlands has declined but the phenomenon requires constant attention. Clamp-downs by the police impose a considerable burden on available cell capacity.
Police action has resulted in the problems shifting from one place to another, to other sections of the border and to other drug trafficking locations. The mode of transport involved also changed, with more use being made of the train.
In 1995 an integrated offensive against nuisance caused by drugs, code-named Victor, was started by the Rotterdam authorities. This too resulted in the sealing of many premises and in the arrest of several hundred foreign drug tourists and drug runners. This repressive policy aimed at discouraging foreign drug tourism will be continued in the years ahead. At the same time, more priority will be given to investigating and prosecuting the leading figures behind the local consumer markets for hard drugs, that is to say the people who manage the drug runners and dealers in premises used for drug trafficking etc.
Consultations have been initiated involving the judicial authorities in Belgium and Northern France and members of the Dutch Public Prosecutions Department, with a view to tackling the problem in a more structural manner; proper cooperation between the police and investigation services is a primary concern. There has been an exchange of judicial officials and police officers between France and the Netherlands, which has improved cooperation between the police and judiciary in the two countries.
Policy is aimed at ensuring better coordination of the activities of the various police forces along the southern and eastern borders of the Netherlands in this field and at having the prosecution of foreign drug offenders transferred to the authorities in their country of origin wherever possible. Care of addicts and prevention are also discussed with neighbouring countries. Consultations will also be held on the compulsion and dissuasion projects (see below), which will involve addicts from abroad who have been found guilty of an offence in the Netherlands being given the opportunity of undergoing treatment in their country of origin as an alternative to serving a prison sentence in the Netherlands. In view of the limited capacity which exists, particularly in France, for the care of addicts, expectations should not be set too high in the short term, however. The Netherlands has submitted a proposal on tackling drug tourism as part of the European plan to combat drugs. Within the framework of that plan the European Commission has proposed the establishment of a Community programme of action on the prevention of drug addiction*. This programme would provide an opportunity for improving care for addicts within the European Union.
The obvious measures which can be taken where foreign addicts commit criminal offences in the Netherlands, including small- scale trafficking and drug running, include detection, prosecution and sentencing or transfer of criminal proceedings, immediate deportation and, where possible, declaring those concerned to be persona non grata (section 21 of the Aliens Act). We believe that in exceptional circumstances it is also justifiable immediately to deport EU citizens (section 100, subsection 4, of the Aliens Act), who are entitled to reside in the Netherlands under European law and who generally enjoy special protection from deportation. Drug tourists from neighbouring countries who commit criminal offences and as a result cause breaches of the peace must take into account the likelihood that they will be deported immediately under the terms of the Aliens Act. Under no circumstances may they take it for granted that the Netherlands is prepared to become the main care centre for European heroin addicts. A stop will be put to the export to the Netherlands of other countries' drug problems.