Things are getting murky in the Netherlands for young people after the Dutch police launched a controversial program in which they plan to strip clothing and jewels from young people if the officer believes the person is too poor for such fine things, reports The Independent.
Authorities hope that by so doing, young people will be scared of keeping expensive things they acquire through illegal means and would, therefore, choose to take such to the police or return them to their rightful owners.
“They are often young men who consider themselves untouchable. We’re going to undress them on the street,” said Rotterdam police chief Frank Paauw. “We regularly take a Rolex from a suspect. Clothes rarely. And that is especially a status symbol for young people. Some young people now walk with jackets of €1800. They do not have any income, so the question is how they get there.”
The program, first launched in Rotterdam as a pilot, seeks to make young people responsible so that they can account for all they own. If the said person can’t clearly prove how they acquired such an item, they’d be forced to hand it over to the police.
He said the young men they’re targeting are those who often have no sources of income and are living in debt from fines relating to previous convictions, yet they’re wearing very expensive outfits.
He explained that letting such young people continue in such lifestyles “undermines the rule of law” which relays “a completely false signal to local residents.”
According to the police, the trial will first target the Rotterdam West section before being rolled out in other locations depending on its success. The Rotterdam pilot will target a particular gang.
This idea came up following the trial of a similar program in which law enforcement targeted expensive cars criminal gang members were cruising in yet they had no income that would enable them to afford such.
The officers are also targeting shell companies, drug lords and peddlers, as well as illegal gamblers. In 2016 alone, the city of Rotterdam was able to confiscate a total of €11.5m.
Despite some people backing the idea, critics say it’s a scheme likely to result in racial profiling.
Speaking to AD, City ombudsman Anne Mieke Zwaneveld said, “We realised that [they] do not want to create the appearance that there is ethnic profiling but the chances of this happening are very large.”
Zwaneveld believes it’ll be an uphill task for officers to prove they were justified in confiscating people’s clothes in the middle of the city. “It is not forbidden to walk around in the street. In addition, it is often unclear how such a piece of clothing is paid and how old it is.”
Jair Schalkwijk, a spokesperson for Control Alt Delete, a national organization against profiling, lamented that the move would contravene a previous promise by the law enforcement that they’d not target people who “look like criminals.”