Rotterdam Police Will Stop and Question People for Wearing Designer Clothing
If you can't prove your outfit's rightfully yours, they can confiscate it. We spoke to young people in the city about the new measures meant to deter criminals, and the risk of racial profiling.
All photos by Victor van Drielen
This article originally appeared on VICE Netherlands
Next time you visit Rotterdam, you might want to carefully consider what you wear. Not only because the wildly stylish people of Rotterdam aren't easily impressed, but also because the city's police force is planning stop and question young people strolling around in expensive designer clothing. If you're not able to prove that your shiny Gucci loafers were bought with money made in an honest way, they could be confiscated. Before the new measure is introduced, police officers in the city will receive special training to be able to spot the difference between Giorgio Armani and, say, Georgio Peviani.
Authorities hope this will function as a deterrent for young criminals, but locals think the measures might be illegal and will inevitably lead to racial profiling – a charge police chief Frank Paauw countered by insisting that officers will only stop and question people who are already in their system.
VICE Netherlands spoke to young Rotterdammers to find out how they feel about the police's plans, and how they'd respond if they were stopped in the street on account of their outfits reeking of money.
VICE: Hey Ted. What do you think about the new measures?
Ted: I think it’s a strange way of trying to catching criminals. Why not just arrest a drug dealer when he's actually dealing drugs?
How would you feel if you were stopped?
If I had spent a lot of my hard-earned money on my clothes, I would be really annoyed. It just means the police see you as a criminal. Personally, I’m not worried at all – I don’t own expensive clothes. But many young people do, and they bought them in an honest way. In those cases, it’s normal they would want to show them off without being harassed.
Do you think it will lead to racial profiling?
Yes, I’m sure some groups will be stopped and checked more than others. It’s also very hard for the police as well, if they constantly have to decide who does and does not look like a criminal.
Quincy, 20 (left), and Jurian, 20
VICE: Hi guys, how do you feel about the fact police can stop anyone on the street to ask how they got their hands on expensive clothing?
Jurian: I don’t think it’s going to work. Firstly, I’m not sure it’s legal. And secondly, couldn't you just tell them that your clothes belong to an older brother, or something? How would they know?
How would you feel if they stopped you?
Jurian: I personally wouldn’t mind, because they'd just be doing their jobs. But if they’re actually going to confiscate people's clothing, that'll probably cause some minor riots.
Quincy: Most young people can’t prove on the spot how they got their clothes. A measure like this is just going to cause more resentment between the community and the police.
Do you think there will be other consequences?
Quincy: Yes, racial profiling. Police won't consider a white guy walking around in an expensive jacket to be a potential drug dealer. But it’ll be a different story with minorities.
VICE: What do you think about these new measures?
Charmaine: I can understand questioning 11 or 14-year-olds. It would be fairly surprising to see a kid walking around the poorer areas of this city in a jacket that costs thousands. But outside of that, it’s a completely ridiculous measure. It’s so easy now – especially online – to buy all kinds of brands at really low prices. Also, nobody has the right to determine what you’re allowed to wear. If you don't want to go anywhere without your Louboutins, that's nobody's business but your own.
What if something was taken from you?
I'd be angry. I’m an adult, so even if I'm walking around in one of these so-called "ghettos", the police don't have the right to ask me where I got my clothes from. It’s a violation of my privacy, and I won’t let that happen to me. I can be pretty feisty when I need to be.
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Bram, 21 (left), and Silas, 19
VICE: Hey guys, do you think police should be allowed to check what you wear?
Bram: I've done some reading on this – there's not really a proper plan for this yet. If they don’t come up with some proper guidelines, they'll end up racially profiling people. I read that they’ll only check people who are already in their system, but I think that’ll be very hard to actually pull off. A lot of those guys still live at home, and, naturally, parents buy their children stuff.
Do you guys understand why police plan on doing this?
Silas: No, and I think the idea is weird. There are so many young people out there with legitimate jobs.
Bram: Yeah, I don’t get it either. Police should be focused on dealing with the actual crime. Also, I don’t think most criminals are openly walking around in expensive clothing, but maybe it will work as a deterrent for those thinking about showing off.
VICE: Hi Donna, what do you think about the police's plan?
Donna: It’s very hard to prove that something wasn't a present. Also, a plan like this definitely won't improve the relationship between the people of Rotterdam and the police.
What if you were stopped?
I would feel like police didn’t trust me. On one hand, I can understand it, because the kind of clothing they're after is linked to social status, and taking that away could have an effect. But on the other hand, I don’t think snatching people's clothes will make much of a difference in stopping crime.
VICE: How do you feel about the prospect of police stopping people based on what they're wearing?
Jainy: I think judging people on how they dress is crossing a line – it's a form of prejudice. Instead, you should just judge people on what they do.
Do you understand why police are planning this?
Not really. They should be focused on cracking down on actual crime. This measure doesn't solve the problem, it just focuses on the symptoms. I own some expensive brands, and I, like everybody else, should be free to wear the clothes I feel comfortable in.
How would you react if you were questioned?
I would cooperate, because it’s a police officer, but I wouldn't be afraid to tell them how I felt – that it's unacceptable and inhumane to question people solely based on what they wear.