Crews remove Davis Cup paving stone threat

Road crews in Malmö have succeeded in removing piles of paving stones which police said would stop them from providing security for Sweden’s upcoming Davis Cup tennis match against Israel in Malmö.

“I’ve been out there this morning and am satisfied with what I’ve seen. The stones are more or less gone and during the day some other things which have concerned me will also be taken away,” said Skåne police safety representative Kaj Svensson to the TT news agency.

According to the city’s roads department, the office had planned to remove the stones before police voiced concerns to the press on Wednesday, but wanted to allow work on the site to continue as long as possible before taking the stones away.

The Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper reported on Thursday that police would refuse to provide security for the tennis match against if the city didn’t remove the stones from near the arena.

Hundreds of police officers have been called to help maintain order during the match, which is being played behind closed doors due to security concerns.

Authorities expect roughly 10,000 demonstrators to fill the streets of Malmö near the Baltiska Hallen arena.

“There is a significant risk for violent disruptions in Malmö from Friday to Sunday,” police commander Håkan Jarborg Eriksson told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

Outside the venue, however, several large piles of paving stones sit waiting to be placed in a nearby road construction site, causing concern for officers’ safety.

“The piles of stones which are now sitting outside Baltiska Hallen are ammunition for some of the activists,” Svensson told the Polistidningen newspaper earlier in the week, according to DN.

“My demand is unconditional. The stones must be gone by today, Thursday, at the latest. Otherwise I’m going issue a stop due to safety concerns and then there won’t be a single police officer on the scene.”

Svensson said that the city had already managed to remove 170 truckloads of broken asphalt from the same construction site, but that he couldn’t “risk the lives of his colleagues” and let the pavings stones remain.

Ever since Israel’s offensive in Gaza erupted last December, a “Stop the Match” campaign has been underway in Sweden calling for a boycott of the Davis Cup match as a way to protest Israel’s actions.

Police say they’ve had a healthy dialogue with “Stop the Match” activists, who expect 10,000 supporters to gather on Saturday for what they characterize as a “peaceful rally”.

But authorities remain concerned that up to 1,000 other groups, some of which have indicated they plan to take a more hard line stance, may cause trouble.

While police plan on taking a cautious, non-confrontational approach, they are ready for action if necessary.

“If a vehicle with players or the Baltiska Hallen were to be attacked, we’d naturally use full force,” Jarborg Eriksson told DN.


US criminologist lauds Malmö for anti-gang success

The US criminologist behind the anti-gang strategy designed to reduce the number of shootings and explosions in Malmö has credited the city and its police for the "utterly pragmatic, very professional, very focused" way they have put his ideas into practice.

US criminologist lauds Malmö for anti-gang success
Johan Nilsson/TT

In an online seminar with Malmö mayor Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh, David Kennedy, a professor at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said implementing his Group Violence Intervention (GVI) strategy had gone extremely smoothly in the city.

“What really stands out about the Malmö experience is contrary to most of the places we work,” he said. “They made their own assessment of their situation on the ground, they looked at the intervention logic, they decided it made sense, and then, in a very rapid, focused and business-like fashion, they figured out how to do the work.”

He said that this contrasted with police and other authorities in most cities who attempt to implement the strategy, who tend to end up “dragging their feet”, “having huge amounts of political infighting”, and coming up with reasons why their city is too different from other cities where the strategy has been a success.

Malmö’s Sluta Skjut (Stop Shooting) pilot scheme was extended to a three-year programme this January, after its launch in 2018 coincided with a reduction in the number of shootings and explosions in the city.

“We think it’s a good medicine for Malmö for breaking the negative trend that we had,” Malmö police chief Stefan Sintéus said, pointing to the fall from 65 shootings in 2017 to 20 in 2020, and in explosions from 62 in 2017 to 17 in 2020.

A graph from Malmö police showing the reduction in the number of shootings from 2017 to 2020. Graph: Malmö Police
A graph from Malmö police showing the reduction in the number of explosions in the city between 2017 and 2020. Graph: Malmö Police


In their second evaluation of the programme, published last month, Anna-Karin Ivert, Caroline Mellgren, and Karin Svanberg, three criminologists from Malmö University, reported that violent crime had declined significantly since the program came into force, and said that it was possible that the Sluta Skjut program was partly responsible, although it was difficult to judge exactly to what extent. 

The number of shootings had already started to decline before the scheme was launched, and in November 2019, Sweden’s national police launched Operation Rimfrost, a six-month crackdown on gang crime, which saw Malmö police reinforced by officers from across Sweden.

But Kennedy said he had “very little sympathy” for criminologists critical of the police’s decision to launch such a massive operation at the same time as Sluta Skjut, making it near impossible to evaluate the programme.

“Evaluation is there to improve public policy, public policy is not there to provide the basis for for sophisticated evaluation methodology,” he argued.

“When people with jobs to do, feel that they need to do things in the name of public safety, they should follow their professional, legal and moral judgement. Not doing something to save lives, because it’s going to create evaluation issues, I think, is simply privileging social science in a way that it doesn’t deserve.”

US criminologist David Kennedy partaking in the meeting. Photo: Richard Orange

Sluta Skjut has been based around so-called ‘call-ins’, in which known gang members on probation are asked to attend meetings, where law enforcement officials warn them that if shootings and explosions continue, they and the groups around them will be subject to intense focus from police.

At the same time, social workers and other actors in civil society offer help in leaving gang life.

Of the 250-300 young men who have been involved in the project, about 40 have been sent to prison, while 49 have joined Malmö’s ‘defector’ programme, which helps individuals leave gangs.

Kennedy warned not to focus too much on the number of those involved in the scheme who start to work with social services on leaving gang life.

“What we find in in practice is that most of the impact of this approach doesn’t come either because people go to prison or because they take services and leave gang life,” he said.

“Most of the impact comes from people simply putting their guns down and no longer being violent.”

“We think of the options as continuing to be extremely dangerous, or completely turning one’s life around. That’s not realistic in practice. Most of us don’t change that dramatically ever in our lives.”

He stressed the importance of informal social control in his method, reaching those who gang members love and respect, and encouraging them to put pressure on gang members to abstain from gun violence.

“We all care more about our mothers than we care about the police, and it turns out that if you can find the guy that this very high risk, very dangerous person respects – literally, you know, little old ladies will go up to him and get his attention and tell him to behave himself. And he will.”