Police in the Dutch city of Rotterdam have launched a new pilot programme which will see them confiscating expensive clothing and jewellery from young people if they look too poor to own them.
Officers say the scheme will see them target younger men in designer clothes they seem unlikely to be able to afford legally – if it is not clear how the person paid for it, it will be confiscated.
The idea is to deter criminality by sending a signal that the men will not be able to hang onto their ill-gotten gains.
Rotterdam police chief Frank Paauw told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf: “They are often young men who consider themselves untouchable. We're going to undress them on the street.
“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.”
He said the young men targeted often have no income and are already in debt from fines for previous convictions but wearing expensive clothing.
This “undermines the rule of law” which sends “a completely false signal to local residents”, he explained.
The trial is due to start in the Rotterdam West section of the city and police say they will target one gang in particular.
The scheme comes after a previous pilot which looked at the expensive cars suspected criminals drove despite not having an income.
The team is also looking at shell companies, drug crime and illegal gambling. In 2016, Rotterdam was able to confiscate €11.5m.
But critics have attacked the idea saying it is a “slippery slope” towards racial profiling.
City ombudsman Anne Mieke Zwaneveld told AD: “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.”
She said it would be very legally difficult to prove officers were justified in taking people’s coats in the middle of the street: “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 spokesman for a national anti-profiling organisation Control Alt Delete, believes the policy is against a previous promise by police not to target people who look like “typical criminals”.
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