Two things strike you in Amsterdam these days. First are the dense, varied and often darkly dissonant layers of human culture that have been delivered to its docks and canals: Portuguese Jews and French Huguenots and German ex-peasants built this place in earlier centuries and form a major part of its ethnic and behavioural style, as much as Surinamese and Antilles migrants did in the last half of the 20th century, and Moroccan and Turkish villagers do today.
Second is its strictness. Complementing the city’s libertine demimonde of pot and hookers are very tough rules. Police here don’t mess about, and they are numerous. They are in the midst of a big campaign to evict all squatter enclaves. There is a truancy squad, probably the most rigorous in Europe, that rounds up immigrant teenagers on the street and marches them off to class. There is a mass-eviction program driving the worst of the brothels out of the Red Light district. Crime has fallen dramatically, with muggings down 17 per cent and vandalism 25 per cent last year, as a result of this tough approach.