• Sweden edition
 
Criminal gangs show no signs of leaving Sweden

Criminal gangs show no signs of leaving Sweden

Published: 12 Mar 2009 14:34 GMT+01:00
Updated: 12 Mar 2009 14:34 GMT+01:00

Prosecutor Barbro Jönsson was driving to work when a bomb exploded at the front door of her house, rocking her whole neighbourhood and sending shockwaves through traditionally serene Sweden.

"It is very hard to describe how I felt when I heard what happened. I think I still haven't grasped how serious it was," Jönsson, 53, told AFP more than a year after the attack.

She was prosecuting a high-profile case against a violent criminal gang called the Wolfpack Brotherhood and had just left her home in the southwestern town of Trollhättan on November 20, 2007, when the blast ripped off the front door and shattered the hallway.

Two young gang members were remanded in custody just over a month ago on suspicion they planted the bomb, which could have killed Jönsson had she been at home.

The bombing – one of the first overt attacks on a Swedish prosecutor – prompted calls to root out the swelling criminal gangs that have smashed the country's tranquil image.

The gangs have caused a spike in a number of crimes, including extortion and loan-sharking – a gang specialty – which have jumped from 740 cases reported in 2003 to 1,715 last year, according to preliminary statistics from the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention.

Police say it is difficult to estimate the number and size of criminal gangs in Sweden since membership can vary from day to day, but media reports indicate around 1,000 people are actively involved in at least six large criminal gangs with numerous branches across the country.

Gangs make headlines almost daily with stories of drug busts, brutal attacks on business owners unable to pay off debts, and bloody gang wars.

"This is a serious problem that has grown in recent years," Swedish Justice Minister Beatrice Ask told AFP.

"We used to be fairly sheltered in the Nordic countries, but unfortunately this problem has surfaced and we must react very forcefully now or else this could be extremely serious in say 10 years," she cautioned.

Police also think that attacks like the one on Jönsson constitute a novel and dangerous twist in Swedish gang activity.

"Attacks on the judiciary are a rather new and very serious phenomenon," said Klas Friberg, the police chief in the Västra Götaland region that comprises Trollhättan and Gothenburg.

Jönsson, who moved after the attack on her home and joined a police unit in Gothenburg working to fight gang crime, agreed.

"We risk having judges who don't dare to judge, prosecutors who are afraid to prosecute and police who refrain from making arrests," she said, adding that "if that happens, the first bastion against these groups will fall."

Just four months after the Trollhättan bombing, shots were fired at the home of another prosecutor in the region, Mats Mattsson, who had worked extensively on cases involving criminal motorcycle gangs like Bandidos.

While no one was hurt in that attack either, it prompted more calls for action and sent the government and police scurrying to come up with new measures to combat the scourge.

Special police and intelligence units were created along with a "Knowledge Centre" on gang activity as part of a national strategy aimed at cracking down on gangs and blocking recruitment of new members.

"Local police have to be on their case all the time, making it uncomfortable for anyone who has not yet been fully recruited to hang around these people," said Justice's Ask.

Despite heightened police efforts, around 10 new clubhouses belonging to gangs like Hells Angels, Bandidos, Wolfpack Brotherhood, and Original Gangsters reportedly sprouted up across Sweden last year alone.

The highest concentration of gang units is centred around the southern towns of Malmö and Gothenburg, largely due to their proximity to Denmark, where the gangs also constitute a major problem.

"A few years ago, Denmark carried out very forceful measures against these gangs and a number of these people moved over to Sweden. Now, we hope they will move back, or rather further," Ask said.

Erik Lannerbäck, a former member of several gangs including the Wolfpack Brotherhood and Bandidos, meanwhile told AFP that simply cracking down on the gangs would accomplish little.

"The main focus should be on getting members to leave the gangs, and to do that you can't just lock people up and hope they'll be better when they get out," said Lannerbäck, who after a decade in criminal gangs began working as a counselor for troubled youths in Stockholm in 2004.

Gang members trying to get out often need protection and help paying off debts and finding a job, but most of all "they need support from people who understand them and can help them see the value in being normal, and to create a new identity," he insisted.

Lannerbäck said he himself repeatedly tried to leave his life of crime only to be drawn back in by the promise of wads of cash or the desire to once again be feared and respected instead of stepped upon in a menial job.

"It was like a drug," he said, adding that landing a good job where he was appreciated was what made it possible to get out for good.

"It is very important that people can leave," Ask agreed, adding that a project to help people get out of the gangs would likely be funded soon.

"Huge efforts are needed and we need a lot of people to push in the same direction, but I think we can bring this problem under control," she said.

"If I didn't think (so), I wouldn't be working in this field."

Don't miss...X
Left Right
Today's headlines
Boy receives cancer vaccine by mistake
Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

Boy receives cancer vaccine by mistake

A boy scheduled to be vaccinated against mumps, measles, and rubella instead received a vaccine against cervical cancer. His family has now reported the blunder for inspection. READ  

Sweden grants additional funds to jobs agency
Photo: Bertil Enevåg Ericson/TT

Sweden grants additional funds to jobs agency

The Swedish government has announced that it will increase funding to the jobs agency (Arbetsförmedlingen) in 2015, primarily to cover personnel costs but also to prevent long-term unemployment. READ  

Police 'powerless' against street racers
Police on E4 highway. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Police 'powerless' against street racers

Stockholm police said they were powerless to react when streetracers took over at "insane speeds" on a large highway on Friday night. READ  

Saab carmaker wins receivership
Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT

Saab carmaker wins receivership

After initial rejection, a Chinese-owned company set up to take over Saab's assets after the troubled Swedish carmaker's bankruptcy said on Friday it had succeeded in being placed in receivership. READ  

Woman suffers cardiac arrest while giving birth
Photo: Tomas Oneborg/TT

Woman suffers cardiac arrest while giving birth

A 30-year-old woman went into cardiac arrest while giving birth at a Stockholm clinic - without hospital staff noticing that anything was wrong. She remains in a critical condition on Friday. READ  

Champions League
History repeats for Malmö fifty years later
Striker Magnus Eriksson during Malmö's 3-0 win over Salzburg in a Champions League qualifier. Photo: Björn Lindgren/TT

History repeats for Malmö fifty years later

Malmö's entry into the Champions League serves as a reminder of times gone by in European football. With Spain's champions bound for Sweden things just couldn't be better, writes contributor Lee Roden. READ  

Elections 2014
Löfven promises jobs to 50,000 young Swedes
Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Löfven promises jobs to 50,000 young Swedes

Social Democrat party leader Stefan Löfven announced on Friday his "most important election promise", a 90-day job guarantee programme for young Swedes. READ  

 Sweden to buy fighter jets despite Swiss pullout
The Jas Gripen fighter aircraft. File photo: Wikimedia

Sweden to buy fighter jets despite Swiss pullout

Sweden said Friday it would go ahead with the purchase of a new generation of Saab Gripen fighter jets, despite Switzerland pulling out of a major co-financing deal. READ  

Three hurt after northern knife attack

Three hurt after northern knife attack

Three people are in hospital after they were stabbed during what police suspect was a gang-related attack in Umeå. READ  

Stockholm 'thief' turns out to be trainee ninja

Stockholm 'thief' turns out to be trainee ninja

Stockholm police rushed to the scene when a worried Swede reported that their neighbours were the victim of a break-in - but when officers arrived, they found nothing but a ninja in the middle of practice. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
People-watching August 27
Gallery
Top ten false friends in Swedish
National
Roma advocate scoops Wallenberg prize
Society
Meet the man who made a Swedish store recall its high heels for kids
Business & Money
'How I came to run my own business in Sweden'
Blog updates

25 August

Hit och dit, här och där (The Swedish Teacher) »

" Hej igen! A common challenge for Swedish language students are the location adverbs hit/här, dit/där, hem/hemma etc. Some of the location adverbs come in two versions. We should use one type of location adverb when we use a verb describes where we are, and we should use the other type of location adverb when we the verb..." READ »

 

25 August

The Dollar Store (Blogweiser) »

"A dollar store in Sweden. Blog post: http://t.co/tNuuvcP1q0 #USD #greenbacks #sweden #sverige pic.twitter.com/RHFAYf7U1k — Joel Sherwood (@joeldsherwood) August 23, 2014 There’s a chain here in Sweden called The DollarStore. This name always stood out to me in a country where they don’t use dollars. I went there for the first time this weekend. They actually accepted greenbacks..." READ »

 
 
 
Politics
Expert explains why Sweden's election oozes uncertainty
National
City plays Schindler's List theme at Nazi rally
Society
For Stockholm Fashion Week, here's the A-Z of Swedish fashion
National
'Amnesiac' man avoids deportation for ten years
Gallery
Princess Estelle through the years
Business & Money
Swedish city all set for six-hour workday trial
Business & Money
Five golden rules for the Swedish job hunt
Sponsored Article
Graduates: Insure your income in Sweden with AEA
Gallery
People-watching August 22-24
National
Armed royal guards caught (very) drunk on the job
National
Sweden orders textbook on Roma discrimination
Gallery
Violent anti-Nazi demonstrations in Malmö
Society
A closer look at Sweden's five official minority languages
Gallery
See the destruction from the southern Sweden floods
Politics
'Sweden Democrats hold the key to elections'
Society
Swedes celebrate first day of smelly fish season
Politics
Sweden elections: How do they work?
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching August 20th
Society
Did you know the Bronx in NYC was named after a Swede?
Sponsored Article
Find out what gives this Swedish school executive appeal
Sponsored Article
Introducing...Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing...Housing in Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

775
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se