Swedish police fuming at street racer accident

Swedish police want to outlaw street racing, after a driver spun off the road over the weekend in Helsingborg in front of a thousand-strong crowd with little love for law enforcers.

Swedish police fuming at street racer accident

“There are hundreds, even thousands of people watching the spectacle,” police officer Karim Ottosson told The Local, describing a scene where mostly young men race each other at four hot-spots in the Helsingborg area.

“Then, last weekend, what we were always scared would happen did happen,” Ottosson said.

On Saturday night, a driver careened off the road near the Väla shopping centre, with the car landing on its roof. The driver escaped unharmed, but the incident has local police seething at the lack of laws accessible to them to put an end to the races.

Helsingborg attracts street race enthusiasts from across southern Sweden, Ottosson said, well aware that social media provided the means for quick assembly for the thrill-seekers.

Instead of monitoring different sites, where drag racers often use code to call enthusiasts to race and to cheer on, Helsingborg police simply patrol the four hot-spots every Friday and Saturday night.

Even families with small children are in the audience, which moves caravan-style between the spots for each race.

“It takes up a lot of our time,” Ottosson said.

“Which means that if you call in to report a rape, a burglary or an assault, people have to wait that bit longer, especially in the summer when we don’t have many staff resources.”

That argument appears to curry little favour among the street racers, who, Ottosson says, have no love lost for the law enforcers.

“They don’t like us. Last year the crowd threw beer cans at two police officers, and tore stuff out from the police car,” he said.

No one was arrested for the attack.

“Two police officers up against a thousand people… it’s difficult to know who did what,” Ottosson said, adding that the officers had been left shaken by the assault.

At present, the police could on paper stop people who break the speed limit, upon which the driver would lose their license. Ottosson and his colleagues would like lawmakers to go the extra mile, however, and ban street racing outright.

“If street racing becomes illegal, we can disband the crowd.”

Ann Törnkvist

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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.