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Got to pick a pocket or 250

The Local · 18 Jun 2004, 00:00

Published: 18 Jun 2004 00:00 GMT+02:00

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Pickpockets are becoming increasingly common in the city centre, with up to 250 people a night having their wallets pinched. The majority of the thefts take place in the immediate vicinity of Stureplan between midnight and 5am.

"It's partly criminals working alone, but we also have reason to believe that much of the activity is organised," said Patrik Widell of Östermalm Police, evoking images of a shady 'Faginsson' character.

Widell explained to DN that the pickpockets can be put into two categories. The first is the professional thief, who roams the bars "hunting his prey, and sometimes even creeping around under the tables".

The second is the "impulse thief, who is actually at the bar for the same reason as the other guests but who steals when the opportunity presents itself".

The good news is that bar staff are becoming more adept at spotting the Artful Dodgers of Stockholm and in the last two months police have arrested twelve thieves.

"It's clear that our co-operation with the bars is getting results," said Widell. "Sober bar staff are very clever and observant in an environment of boozers, who are obviously easy targets."

Tuesday's DN reported police co-operation of a different sort in Gothenburg, where a softly-softly approach to street protests met with scorn from the radical groups who are being spared the baton.

But Västra Götaland police are committed to their new 'contact police' scheme, in which officers are supposed to keep in touch with activists, from the far left Antifascist Action group to the extreme right-wing National Democrats.

One of the ten officers working on the scheme, Gunilla Gevréus, explained that the idea is to understand the groups' beliefs and plans, to get to know the key individuals and to build confidence between the protestors and the police:

"I believe in dialogue. Through talking, misunderstandings can be avoided on both sides. My contacts mean that the police presence can be toned down where we expect action. At the same time I try to convince the groups that everyone's better off if they get permission for their demonstrations."

Despite the fact that the officers have been cruelly nicknamed 'mingle police', 'comfort cops' and 'nice patrol', Stockholm and Malmö Police haven't been put off and plan to follow with versions of their own.

Story continues below…

The only catch is that most of the extremist groups Gunilla Gevréus and her colleagues are hoping to become friends with feel rather short-changed if they don't manage to land a few blows on a police officer in the heady excitement of a demo.

"Gevréus basically wants control over us and our demonstrations," explained Lisa, of the Gothenburg anti-capitalist group Alarm, "and anyway, she's already given evidence against us after many demonstrations."

The only advantage she could see was that the contact would allow Alarm to make clear to the police that they feel threatened by their strength and that they ought to be out arresting Nazis. Lisa did not expect to be having a coffee with Gunilla Gevréus in the near future:

"We don't want to hang out with society's apparatus of repression."

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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