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POLICE

Swedish biker gangs in expansion fast lane

The Bandidos, Hells Angels and other criminal motorcycle gangs have ramped up their expansion in Sweden, while at the same time gaining a foothold in Europe.

Swedish biker gangs in expansion fast lane

Bandidos, Hells Angels and other criminal biker gangs that are already established in Sweden are becoming more firmly entrenched in Europe as the creation of new gangs accelerates in the country.

While many criminal motorcycle gangs are already well-established in Sweden, a new wave of expansion is underway, driven by growth within the Hells Angels, Bandidos and Outlaws.

“In the last three years, Hells Angels has started five new divisions in Eskilstuna, Norrköping, Luleå, Uppsala and a new division in Stockholm. Previously, it took them 10 years to start up so many new divisions, so the curve has risen steeply,” said Lasse Wierup, a journalist, author and expert on motorcycle gangs told the TT news agency.

Part of the reason is that a new international motorcycle club, the Outlaws, has established itself in Sweden. For example, HA’s new division in Uppsala was a response to the Outlaws’ establishment there.

Wierup estimates that there are 300 to 400 full members of motorcycle clubs and as many supporters who live by what Wierup calls the “one-percenter culture”.

What sets the so-called “one-percenters” apart is their desire to isolate themselves from society and live by their own rules and laws, wherein which 99 percent of motorcyclists are law-abiding citizens.

“Expansion builds up the one-percenter culture,” said Wierup.

Hells Angels is the largest motorcycle club in Sweden boasting 12 divisions. The Swedish Hells Angles have also recently overtaken the number of Danish divisions.

“They are the most organized, have the best discipline and the lowest member turnover. They also dedicate themselves to the most sophisticated crimes that bring in the most money, hire illegal workers in the construction industry and engage in drug trafficking, money laundering and extortion,” Wierup said.

Bandidos has eight or nine divisions, engages in the most violent crime and does not bring in a lot of money. Newcomer the Outlaws, with a handful of divisions, consists mainly of “ordinary family men” and do not yet pose any criminal problems, according to Wierup.

Police reaction suggests that it has been easiest to intervene against violent criminals within Bandidos. Hells Angels is more vigilant and the most difficult to combat.

“The police have begun to cooperate with other authorities such as the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket) and the Swedish Enforcement Administration (Kronofogden) and that has made life tougher for gang members. It also protects the extortion victims more now than before. However they should perhaps work more pro-actively [in prevention],” said Wierup.

In Europe, biker gang expansion is taking place mainly in eastern Europe and Turkey.

According to European police organisation Europol, there are now more criminal motorcycle gangs in Europe, with 425 subdivisions, than in the United States, which have about 300.

In the last five years, 120 new subdivisions have launched in Europe.

In addition, European motorcycle gangs have also become larger than those in than North America, where biker gang culture originated.

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PROTESTS

Calls for special police tactics to be available across Sweden

The chairwoman of the Police Association West Region has said that police special tactics, known as Särskild polistaktik or SPT, should be available across Sweden, to use in demonstrations similar to those during the Easter weekend.

Calls for special police tactics to be available across Sweden

SPT, (Särskild polistaktik), is a tactic where the police work with communication rather than physical measures to reduce the risk of conflicts during events like demonstrations.

Tactics include knowledge about how social movements function and how crowds act, as well as understanding how individuals and groups act in a given situation. Police may attempt to engage in collaboration and trust building, which they are specially trained to do.

Katharina von Sydow, chairwoman of the Police Association West Region, told Swedish Radio P4 West that the concept should exist throughout the country.

“We have nothing to defend ourselves within 10 to 15 metres. We need tools to stop this type of violent riot without doing too much damage,” she said.

SPT is used in the West region, the South region and in Stockholm, which doesn’t cover all the places where the Easter weekend riots took place.

In the wake of the riots, police unions and the police’s chief safety representative had a meeting with the National Police Chief, Anders Tornberg, and demanded an evaluation of the police’s work. Katharina von Sydow now hopes that the tactics will be introduced everywhere.

“This concept must exist throughout the country”, she said.

During the Easter weekend around 200 people were involved in riots after a planned demonstration by anti-Muslim Danish politician Rasmus Paludan and his party Stram Kurs (Hard Line), that included the burning of the Muslim holy book, the Koran.

Police revealed on Friday that at least 104 officers were injured in counter-demonstrations that they say were hijacked by criminal gangs intent on targeting the police. 

Forty people were arrested and police are continuing to investigate the violent riots for which they admitted they were unprepared. 

Paludan’s application for another demonstration this weekend was rejected by police.

In Norway on Saturday, police used tear gas against several people during a Koran-burning demonstration after hundreds of counter-demonstrators clashed with police in the town of Sandefjord.

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