The campaign to warn the public about a street dealer selling white heroin as cocaine will draw to a close this weekend. This decision was prompted by last Saturday’s arrest of a suspect in connection with the sale of white heroin to three Danish tourists at the end of February. The arrest does not guarantee there will be no further incidents, but the authorities believe the risk has decreased.

A second reason for the decision is that in the past six weeks there have been no further incidents and no reports of white heroin being offered for sale. A third and final argument is that by definition a warning campaign is of a temporary nature and the instrument should be used as sparingly as possible to prevent it from losing its impact.

Two campaigns

Since September 2014, 20 tourists have become seriously ill after ‘snorting’ heroin sold to them as cocaine. In October and November, three of them died as a consequence. The Amsterdam authorities therefore decided on 26 November to launch a large-scale warning campaign, prioritising the prevention of further illness or fatalities. The apprehension of the perpetrator and any consequences for the image of the city took second and third place.

When on 26 February three tourists again became unwell after purchasing white heroin from a street dealer, a possible suspect was identified. The victims were able to provide a description and the suspect was recorded on camera. He handed himself in to the police on 4 April. On 7 April the examining judge ordered that he should be remanded in custody.

Amsterdam remains on the alert

As a consequence of the joint decision on the part of the authorities, the public information displays in the city have been removed. Leafleting will also end and warning posters will be taken down. Because the possibility of further incidents involving white heroin cannot be ruled out, the organisations concerned, including the Red Alert Team consisting of representatives from the Public Health Service, the advisory body Adviesbureau Drugs, and the narcotics research and information centre Jellinek, will remain on the alert.