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Sweden debates school safety after US massacre

In the wake of the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, Swedes are discussing whether or not to introduce national security guidelines for Swedish schools.

Sweden debates school safety after US massacre

There are currently no such guidelines in place.

“I know there have been discussions about whether or not our schools are too open,” said Per-Arne Andersson, department head at the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (Sveriges Kommuner och Landsting).

Andersson said the issue may now be raised again.

In 2009, the Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket) published material which included lessons learnt from recent school shootings in neighbouring Finland.

But so far the authorities have not considered it necessary to draft special guidelines for security and crisis management at schools.

Education Minister Jan Björklund believes each municipality should take responsibility for their schools, as is currently the case.

“My understanding is that each municipality has crisis plans for these kinds of events,” he said.

“When it comes to preventative work on the other hand I see a need for constant improvement.”

When a 16-year-old boy was shot to death at the Bromma gymnasium high school in 2001, Björklund, then the Stockholm Schools Commissioner, launched an inquiry which concluded that it would be inappropriate to install metal detectors and surveillance cameras in Swedish schools.

However, many Stockholm schools independently decided to start keeping visitor registers and to keep doors locked.

In Gothenburg there have been drills for potential school shooting scenarios. Entrances and emergency exits in the city’s schools have been mapped out, said the city’s education director, Sven Höpner.

Swedish police are taking special measures after the Connecticut tragedy.

“Of course we are intensifying our surveillance online after an event like this,” Stefan Marcopoulo, a National Bureau of Investigation (Rikskriminalpolisen) spokesman told Sveriges Radio (SR). He declined to go into detail about the police’s work, however.

Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, has sent a letter of condolence to the U.S. government and issued a statement saying that Sweden is mourning with all those who lost children and friends in Newtown.

“The losses are unfathomable and the sorrow is great,” said Reinfeldt.

“Together we will protect our open society and try to prevent this from happening again.”

The gunman in Newtown, Connecticut allegedly shot his mother in her home before killing 20 pupils and six adults at a nearby elementary school. He then turned the weapon on himself.

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SHOOTING

Malmö pushes ahead with US anti-gang method after shootings

The recent spate of explosions and shootings in Malmö has not knocked the local police's pioneering anti-gang project off course, local police chief Stefan Sintéus said on Wednesday.

Malmö pushes ahead with US anti-gang method after shootings
Ten representatives of the agencies involved in Sluta Skjut gave a press conference on Wednesday. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
Under the city's Sluta Skjut (Stop Shooting) scheme, nine known gang members were on Tuesday forced to attend a meeting where they were confronted by police, nurses, bereaved parents, social workers and others, all of whom sought to convince them to leave their criminal lives. 
 
Sintèus told a press conference that he was worried that the fatal shooting of Jaffar, a 15-year-old boy, on Saturday night in a pizzeria near Malmö's Möllevånstorget square, would change the dynamic of the so-called 'call-in'.
 
“I can honestly say that I was worried before this call-in,” he said. “I would like to say that this was a call-in where we could tell with all of them that it sunk in.” 
 
The nine men had all been sentenced for various crimes, and had to attend the meeting as part of their probation. Three of those invited chose not to come, thereby risking a 15-day prison sentence. 
 
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The meeting was the third since the Sluta Skjut project began last year. The project uses the Group Violence Intervention technique developed by Professor David Kennedy, who leads the National Network for Safe Communities (NNSC) at John Jay College in New York. 
 
NNSC claims that the technique cut youth homicide in Boston by 63 percent and the number of shootings by 27 percent when it was launched there in the 1990s. 
 
The police briefly uploaded a video of a rehearsal involved carried out before the event took place on Tuesday but later took it down. The Sydsvenskan newspaper published a clip on its website (In Swedish). 
 
The video shows Dejan, from the local probation services; Sedat Arif, a Malmö city councillor from Macedonia who explained his tough upbringing in Rosengård, Anna Kosztovics, who leads the unit helping gang members leave crime, and Ebba, a deacon from the Swedish church, as well as two police officers and Ola Sjöstrand, Malmö's chief prosecutor.
 
 
 
Boel Håkansson, with the Swedish police's national unit NOA, said that so far 30 young men had shown interest in leaving criminal life. “That's one result of the work in Sluta Skjut, but we have a lot more to do,” she said. 
 
She also stressed that, even after the shootings last Saturday and on Monday, the number of fatal shootings since the project began was still down dramatically on 2018. 
 
At Tuesday's meeting, the nine young men were lectured by Lizette Vargas, a nurse who has helped treat some of those admitted to Malmö University Hospital with bullet wounds. 
 
“I told them what it looks like when someone comes into the accident and emergency department with bullet wounds,” she said at the press conference, according to the Sydsvenskan newspaper. “I explained how we in our profession feel when we look after a trauma patient and handle their friends and relatives.” 
 
She said that she felt the men had been affected by what she said. “They became upset. We had made contact when our eyes met. You can tell it's sinking in.”  
 
At the meeting on Tuesday there were more than 70 people, including representatives of sports clubs, religious organisations, and the local city government, all of whom offered various services to help the men leave criminal life. 
 
A mother, whose adult son had died of an illness, told the men what it was like to lose a child. 
 
But as well as the soft sell, there was a harder message. 
 
“We are not going to accept that either you, or those you hang about with, use guns or violence,” Sintéus told them. “If you choose to continue doing that nonetheless, the police and other authorities are going to have a minute focus on everyone in the most violent group.” 
 
Under Group Violence Intervention, police put the lives of those deemed to still be engaged in violent crime under the microscope, carrying out frequent spot checks on them. 
 
“We know who you are and who you hang out with,” added Glen Sjögren, who has worked for Malmö police for 40 years.  “We do not want more young kids to end their lives in a pool of blood.” 
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