• 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."

Today's headlines
Science
Swedes discover rare Antarctic fossils

Swedes discover rare Antarctic fossils

Researchers from Sweden have been speaking about a rare discovery of mammal fossils in the Antarctic. READ  

Ukraine conflict
Sweden Democrats reject EU-Ukraine pact
The Sweden Democrats have two MEPs, seen here with the party's leader Jimmie Åkesson. Photo: TT

Sweden Democrats reject EU-Ukraine pact

BREAKING: The European Parliament has backed an 'historic' agreement to allow closer trade between the EU and Ukraine, but the nationalist Sweden Democrats were among those trying to block the deal on Tuesday. READ  

Elections 2014
Löfven to get no help from Sweden's Liberals
Liberal party leader Jan Björklund. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Löfven to get no help from Sweden's Liberals

UPDATED: Liberal Party leader Jan Björklund says he has no plans to join a government with the election-winning Social Democrats, as Sweden's political future remains uncertain. READ  

Analysis
'Evolution' for Sweden's crowd-funding scene
Photo: Victor1558/Flickr

'Evolution' for Sweden's crowd-funding scene

The Local checks out crowd-funding in Sweden as US giant Kickstarter announces plans to launch in Scandinavia. READ  

Opinion
Scandinavia and Scotland: closer links?
Brit Kester Gibson (left) thinks Scotland should split from the UK but Swede Mimi Coglianos disagrees. Photos: private

Scandinavia and Scotland: closer links?

Scotland votes on whether to become independent this week and the Scottish National Party has suggested closer ties with Scandinavia if the 'yes' camp wins. The Local asked two readers if they agreed with Scotland splitting from the UK. READ  

Sport
Malmö gear up for Champions League
Sweden's biggest club Malmö face Juventus on Tuesday. Photo:TT

Malmö gear up for Champions League

Malmö are the first Swedish club in the Champion's League for more than a decade but they face a tough debut fixture against Italian champions Juventus in their Group A opener. READ  

Sweden earthquake 'was strongest in 100 years'
The town of Mora, near where the earthquake hit. Photo: Shutterstock

Sweden earthquake 'was strongest in 100 years'

An earthquake measuring 4.1 on the Richter scale shook parts of central Sweden on Monday and experts have revealed it was the strongest in a century. READ  

Elections 2014
Löfven rules out making government with the Left
Left Party leader Jonas Sjöstedt. Photo: TT

Löfven rules out making government with the Left

Election winner Stefan Löfven announced on Monday that he would not form a government with the Left Party, a move that party's leader called a "huge mistake". READ  

Elections 2014
Six big headaches for Stefan Löfven
Stefan Löfven: a man with a lot on his plate. Photo: Sören Andersson/TT

Six big headaches for Stefan Löfven

Stefan Löfven has started talks to form a new government, but the former welder faces huge challenges in bringing together an administration that will work. The Local explains why. READ  

Business
Microsoft to buy Swedish Minecraft makers

Microsoft to buy Swedish Minecraft makers

UPDATED: Microsoft announced on Monday that it was buying Swedish company Mojang, which was behind the hit game Minecraft, for $2.5 billion (17.9 billion kronor). READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Sponsored Article
How to start a business in Stockholm
Society
How I became a surf blogger when I moved to Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: September 13th
Society
Why is Stockholm's Södermalm so cool?
Gallery
People-watching: September 11th
Blog updates

15 September

Liten, litet, små & lilla (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej igen! Have you ever been confused about when to use “liten”, “litet”, “små” and “lilla”? Today I’m going to sort out how use the adjective “liten” (small) and the different forms of it. Liten or litet? “Liten” is the form we will use when referring to a noun with the gender “en”. For example: Min pappa har en..." READ »

 

12 September

EU sanctions: necessary, effective and timely (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"Regular readers of this blog know I’ve written about the Russia-Ukraine crisis here. Today I’ve chosen to share an article by the UK Minister for Europe, David Lidington, with my readers: This week the European Union imposed further sanctions on Russia. This decision followed months of destabilisation of Ukraine by Russia, and months of political..." READ »

 
 
 
Gallery
People-watching: September 13th
Politics
Five possible election outcomes
Politics
Sweden elections: How do they work?
Politics
Sweden elections: Who's who?
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week - Hornstull, Stockholm
Analysis
Five differences between the UK and Sweden
Welshman Jonny Luck is now a chef in Sweden
Society
How I opened my own restaurant in Sweden's Malmö
Sponsored Article
Stockholm tech fest: relive the magic
Gallery
People-watching September 8th
Photo: TT
Politics
Feminists fight for first seats
Politics
Immigration cut push from Sweden Democrats
Sheryl Sandberg says women have "low expectations"
Tech
Facebook exec talks women's limits in Swedish business
Politics
Left Party calls for justice and equality
Politics
Green Party wants 'better world' for kids
Lifestyle
The five best Swedish songs of the month
Sponsored Article
Introducing… Insurance in Stockholm
National
Huge clear up underway after Skåne floods
Politics
Sweden's Alliance reveals full manifesto
Tech
Sweden's highest peak to lose title next year
Politics
How immigration became a key election issue
Sponsored Article
Graduates: Insure your income in Sweden with AEA
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

857
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
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN