By Scott Roane
In the last few months, a few negative comments from visitors about safety in Amsterdam caught my attention. After discovering the source of their worries to be some older versions of well known guide books, I thought it might be a good time to provide an update.
Signs in the station or announcements over the public address system warning people to beware of pickpockets may leave you clutching your bag as if it contains the crown jewels. But these are simply warnings, and they help to ensure that it rarely happens.
Compared to other large European cities, Amsterdam is a relatively safe city. Violent crimes rarely occur and in 8 years of living here, with a largish group of friends who are regularly out and about, often until the very early hours of the morning, nobody has even been the victim of any sort of petty crime.
In fact, on one occasion after leaving her bag in the corner of the bar for the whole night (a regular and perhaps foolish habit that I wouldn’t dream of doing in any other city) a friend did come back to find it missing. The next day after finding her address in her diary, the bag was returned sheepishly by a girl whose boyfriend had mistakenly picked it up thinking it was hers (she was apparently to drunk to notice)! I’ve also got many more examples of lost mobile phones being reunited.
In terms of neighbourhoods, there’s not really much difference. Some older guide books may mention the area around Nieuwmarkt, which around ten years ago had a problem with drug addicts, or Amsterdam Noord, which had some cross-cultural issues. Both of these areas are now perfectly safe.
Most of the central areas, the Pijp, Amsterdam Noord, West and Oost are all as safe as each other. The suburbs further out of town are much quieter, so I’d probably avoid walking around late at night. I would give a word of caution to the Red Light Distric, simply because visitors are often distracted and it can be very crowded. If there’s going to be a scuffle in the bar, its most likely going to happen here as it tends to attract crowds of drunken football supporters, particularly the British (apologies to all well behaved fellow Brits, but a fact’s a fact).
In the news last year there was some negative press over attacks on homosexuals, but this was sparked by one particular attack on an American journalist. While it does happen occasionally, it’s certainly not the norm, and can be avoided by staying to the main streets, and giving some thought to where any public displays of affection take place, particularly in areas of West which have a high percentage of Muslim inhabitants who might take offence.
Amsterdam has one of the lowest incidents of sexual related crimes in Europe. Female friends of mine don’t have any concerns walking home alone at night, or taking public transport. But as with any town or city, simply use your common sense.
To finish on a less positive note, bike theft is a problem. It’s mostly opportunist, with people finding a bike with the keys in or an old, easy-to-break lock, when they need to get home early in the morning. If you lock it to a fixed object, there’s a very low risk of it being stolen. After 8 years, I’m still riding around on the same shiny bicycle.
Emergency (police,ambulance, fire): 112
Police (theft and other queries): 0900-8844