From Cheese and Butter to Hard Drugs
By “Awake!” correspondent in The Netherlands
BESIDES dairy-products—cheese and butter—enormous amounts of hard drugs have been pouring out of The Netherlands. Governments of neighboring countries have raised strong protests against this smuggling, maintaining that the Dutch authorities ought to take far stronger measures in dealing with the situation.
Throughout The Netherlands, especially in the city of Amsterdam, crime is greatly on the rise. Addicts, unable to pay the steep black-market price for drugs, are resorting to theft. They are even breaking into pharmacies to hunt for opium and morphine. In the center of Amsterdam, prostitutes under the influence of drugs may be seen sitting at brothel windows. Warfare rages among Chinese gangs for control of the narcotics trade.
The problem has reached such proportions that the Amsterdam city council is advocating the legalizing of drugs, agreeing in principle with the policy “free heroin for addicts.” The police, too, are in favor of this. From other quarters, however, a chorus of loud protest is being heard. It is feared that the legalization of narcotics would swell the already large number of addicts.
How Did the Situation Come About?
To find out how this serious problem developed, we arranged to get firsthand information from the Ministry of Justice’s Board of Police at The Hague. Our interview with a representative of that governmental department brought the following to light:
The Netherlands became the European hub for drug traffic because of the country’s central position, and the city of Amsterdam happens to be ideally situated. Only a few kilometers from Amsterdam lies the busy international airport Schiphol. In just a few hours, Belgium, Germany or France may be reached by land transportation. Rotterdam, Europe’s biggest seaport, is only 75 kilometers (47 miles) away. Because of the country’s extensive coastline, fishing boats and pleasure yachts can easily drop off an illegal cargo at an isolated spot. Also, The Netherlands’ liberal legal system and very tolerant policy toward foreigners seem to attract criminal elements.
Until November 1976, anyone caught with a large amount of opium or heroin was sent to prison for a maximum period of four years. Compared with many prisons in the East and in North Africa, those in The Netherlands are almost ideal. Inmates are never beaten, have ample food, do not have to work, may watch television and may receive reading matter and visits from relatives. Hence, those sentenced to short prison terms for smuggling narcotics do not fare badly. The government has instituted severer punishment meanwhile, but so far the desired effect has not been realized. Ever-increasing quantities of drugs are being seized by the police and customs officials.
Another reason why the drug problem is greater in The Netherlands than in neighboring countries is that illegal narcotics traffic has been going on for a much longer period here. Why? In the 1930’s, poor Chinese seamen came to The Netherlands, giving up their occupation to earn money on shore for their hungry families back home. These men spent just a few cents daily on food and drink. They slept crowded together in the poorest parts of the big cities. In the wake of the economic revival after World War II, their lot improved. Through thrift and hard work, many of these former seamen were able to open one Chinese restaurant after another. But a considerable number of the Chinese settlers were opium smokers, and remained such. Since the large Chinese colony obtained nearly everything for their restaurants and shops from Hong Kong, here and there a small packet of opium would be included in the shipments.
Much later, heroin and other hard drugs appeared on the underground market. Until about four or five years ago, no heroin was ever seized by the police or customs officials. But now the total runs into hundreds of kilos, and this amount apparently is only the top of a huge iceberg. Much of the opium and heroin comes from the area known as the “Golden Triangle”—Burma, Laos and northern Thailand. Fishing boats smuggle the opium out of the “Golden Triangle” to Hong Kong, Singapore and, more recently, to Bangkok. The powerful crime syndicates that control the real traffic in narcotics have their seat in big seaports, and use every conceivable means to get the drugs to the rich West. Profits are fabulous. At the source, raw opium costs about $53 per kilo, but the addicts pay all together some $235,300 for a kilo of heroin. (Using a fairly simple chemical method, from ten kilos of raw opium, one kilo of heroin can be made.)
Much of the heroin from the “Golden Triangle” went to Vietnam during the time that some 800,000 United States soldiers were stationed there. Some of them already had been using drugs, and illness, anxiety and the pressures of jungle warfare added many new addicts to their number. The big drug problem in Europe, especially in The Netherlands, started after the United States withdrew from Vietnam. Why? Because the Chinese syndicates in Hong Kong and Bangkok lost their lucrative market in Vietnam and did everything possible to build up a market in Europe. To this end, they largely used their contacts with criminal elements among the Chinese in The Netherlands.
The effect of the drug problem has been devastating to The Netherlands. A mere ten years ago this country was comparatively free of crime. Now Dutch society is ravaged by juvenile delinquency, theft and even murder. If someone is robbed or assaulted in public, hardly anyone lifts a finger to provide help. During one weekend in Amsterdam when 7,000 cars were broken into, the overworked police force could do little more than give the victims a form to fill out. To break the wave of terror and robbery in Amsterdam, the Dutch government had military police on the trams for some time.
So, the great increase in crime is directly related to drugs. Buyer and dealer meet each other in districts and at addresses where other crimes—prostitution, gambling, theft and traffic in stolen goods—are rife. Every day an addict needs perhaps half a gram of heroin, costing as much as $118. Obviously this amount of money can never be obtained by honest means. Hence, addicts resort to pushing drugs, prostitution and theft; in fact, they do not shrink back from committing any crime that results in material gain. To support their habit, they must steal an enormous amount, as they receive only about one tenth of the value for stolen goods. Hence, drug addiction has brought into being one great mass of crime.
The police force cannot deal effectively with the situation unless more men are added. That is why some say that it would be better to supply free heroin to all addicts, hoping that this would eliminate drug-related crime.
The drug problem in The Netherlands certainly is a staggering one. However, individuals can be helped. How? In The Netherlands and other parts of the earth, former addicts have been assisted to break free from their habit through a study of the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Today these former addicts are upright members of society. Surely, the application of the Bible’s counsel could aid many more.
[Picture on page 21]
“Taking drugs along? Better forget it
Foreign countries punish with a heavy hand”
From campaign by the Dutch government to discourage the transporting of drugs