Crowded Amsterdam a "jungle" at night, says Ombudsman

Terrasjes in Amsterdam
Terraces at the Leidseplein in Amsterdam

The measures the Amsterdam municipality is taking against crowds in the city center are not reducing problems for residents, Amsterdam Ombudsman Arre Zuurmond said in a new report. The inner city is "a jungle at night, in which survival of the fittest applies and in which the government is intolerably absent", the Ombudsman said, Het Parool reports.

If the Amsterdam city center was really an amusement park, it would have been closed a long time ago, according to the Ombudsman. Visible enforcement is lacking. And the police are so busy at night trying to keep things under control, that they have no time to help residents who report nuisance. "The government can not hide behind a shortage of officers."

Late in 2016 Zuurmond wrote a similar report after spending a night in the Leidseplein area. Then he called it a "disconcerting experience" - as if a football stadium is constantly emptying in front of the door. The report prompted late Mayor Eberhard van der Laan to implement a number of measures in the months that follows. A team of 140 enforces were employed to tackle nuisance from the Nieuwmarkt police station. Taxis were banned from stopping in the area. The city implemented a harsher approach on holiday rentals, a ban on new tourist shops opening in the center, beer bikes were banned, and tourist tax was increased.

These measures had little to no result, Zuurmond now concludes after again spending a night in the Leidseplein. He spoke with local residents and interest groups, took noise measurements, and accompanied the police and enforcers performing their duties. "Despite the efforts, the situation for residents and contractors has not improved significantly", the Ombudsman concluded, according to the newspaper.

The city center is uninhabitable for residents. There were 942 violations around the home on Leidseplein where he stayed in one night. The nighttime noise in the bedroom measured at 65 decibels, 40 decibels above the norm. Car horns sounded in front of the door an average of 155 times per night. People urinated, pooped, puked and even had sex on and around the home's porch. And this happens every night. There are no more tourist seasons because it is always busy, Zuurmond concluded.

Zuurmond was with enforces when they tried to break up a street party on Voetboogstraat. "Total chaos, nothing was right. Extremely loud music, without a license. The visitors, mostly tourists, were completely out of control." The enforces tried for an hour to do something about the nuisance, but had no authority to intervene. Eventually the team gave up and the party continued. 

The Ombudsman also noted that when local residents do make the effort to complain about the constant nuisance, complaints are ignored - to the residents' frustration. 

"Politicians and civil servants must do their best to regain the trust of Amsterdammers", Zuurmond said, according to the newspaper. He calls for smarter enforcement. More camera surveillance, checking taxis' GPS to make sure they are where they should be, and getting the Tax Authority's help in checking up on hotels and restaurants, are some of the suggestions he made.