Police in the city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands are taking a controversial approach to reducing crime.
They’ll soon begin a pilot program targeting young men in designer clothes that the police believe they couldn’t afford legally. If it’s not clear how the person paid for the clothing, the police may confiscate it.
“We know they have clothes that are too expensive to wear with the money they get,” a spokesperson for the department says. “We’re going to look at how they get those clothes, where did they buy them, from where the money came that they buy them.”
Rotterdam police will run the program for a limited time to start, to see how effective it is. They’re doing it in collaboration with the public prosecution department, which will help determine what can be legally confiscated.
But while there may be legal reviews of what the police can ultimately keep, they’ll still be taking clothes from those they suspect in the moment. “We’re going to undress them on the street,” Frank Paauw, chief of Rotterdam police, told told De Telegraaf (link in Dutch). He said the suspects often act as if they’re untouchable, and their flashy clothes send the wrong signal to other residents in Rotterdam.
The sorts of items the police will be on the lookout for include ”big Rolex[es], Gucci jackets, all those kinds of clothes,” the department spokesperson said. The spokesperson could not say what types of crime they’re hoping to reduce with the program, though drug trafficking among youth gangs has been an issue in the city.
Critics have slammed the idea, saying it will be legally difficult to confiscate anything, and more concerning, it could lead to racial profiling. The potential for racial profiling was also a prominent concern of several young residents of Rotterdam who Vice spoke with about the program.
“Police won’t consider a white guy walking around in an expensive jacket to be a potential drug dealer,” said Quincy, a 20-year-old man. “But it’ll be a different story with minorities.” Others thought the program could cause problems such as resentment between the police and the community they’re hired to protect, and many didn’t understand the logic behind the program.
De Telegraaf reports that the police previously looked at the cars people drove for signs of criminal behavior. The new program apparently takes the approach a step further. If you’re a young man living in Rotterdam or visiting, you may soon need to be mindful of wearing expensive designer clothes, and being able to prove where you got them.