AMSTERDAM - Scantily clad prostitutes beckoning from behind glass windows - long a familiar sight in this Dutch city - will become rarer, officials said yesterday in announcing a major cleanup of the famed red-light district.
Mayor Job Cohen announced plans to clean up Amsterdam's historic prostitution district and the adjoining area around Central Station, the city's gateway for most tourists.
Cohen said a move in 2000 to legalize prostitution failed to curb gangsters running Amsterdam's sex trade.
The plan involves reselling buildings in the area to large commercial developers and cracking down on pimps and petty crime.
To reduce pimping, the city will require escort services and "security" firms for prostitutes, which usually are not registered businesses, to obtain a license, a fixed address, and a telephone line, and will subject them to financial auditing, he said.
Cohen said the city hoped to complete the overhaul before the 2012 opening of a subway line.
Prostitution has been a part of Amsterdam since the first merchant seamen pulled into its harbor, and authorities have mostly tolerated it.
Mariska Majoor, a former prostitute who runs the Prostitution Information Center, predicted that closing brothels would merely increase the number of streetwalkers.
"This is definitely not going to turn into some wonderful Walt Disney story," she said. "The city is simply going to wipe some things off the table and say that what you don't see doesn't exist."