Thinner blue line

Readers will be aware that Gothenburg is beginning to resemble Gotham City in more than just the name. And if Batman decided to drop in, his assistance would be very welcome to the region's police chiefs.

14 police stations are to close in west Sweden during the summer due to budget cuts and staff shortages. That means reduced resources to counter youth crime, drink driving and drug abuse, according to GP, which contacted all 25 police districts in Västra Götaland and Halland to enquire about staffing levels over the summer.

Inspector Soile Axén, deputy chief in Trollhättan, said: “If there’s any time when the police should be out in force, then it’s the summer when there are lots of young people out and about. But we have to prioritise the basic services, like answering emergency calls.”

The police station covering Gothenburg’s main shopping centre, Nordstaden, will close for six weeks and Inspector Ingemar Gonnardsson, chief for Lorensberg in central Gothenburg said: “Our investigators will be working at headquarters with suspects in custody. It’s work that must be prioritised, so we can’t use those officers on the street. Of course, this is something we must sort out. It could be a difficult summer.”

Kungsbacka have decided to switch resources to youth crime and drug dealing, but at the expense of operations against speeding and drink driving. “We lose 30% of our capacity with leave during the summer and we’re already down to the bare bones in the traffic division,” said Inspector Per-Arne Nilsson.

Monday’s GP sought to explain why basic staffing levels in the police are at such a low ebb. It claimed that no matter how quickly the state trains new police officers, many of the best disappear to the private sector.

“Experienced detectives are becoming an endangered species,” said ex-security police officer, Tommy Glad, now with his own company. “The security business is growing in Sweden and many companies are run by former cops. Those who leave the force are experienced detectives, who can’t be replaced by rookies.”

Robert Lycke of the National Police Board agreed there’s a problem, but played down the scale. A bigger problem according to Lycke is the average age of officers: 50 in Värmland and 46 in Västragötaland, for example. And that’s set to rise according to Lycke before new recruits finish their training and start service.

Older police have a particular staffing implication as officers over 55 are exempt from night shifts. And a lot of crime happens at night. 38% of police in the county of Värmland and 24% of police in Västragötaland are over 55.

As if all that wasn’t enough, the police station in Svenljunga, Västragötaland, burnt down on Monday night. Wednesday’s GP reported that all signs point to arson.