15-year-old fatally shot near busy Malmö square

A 15-year-old boy was fatally shot in Malmö's Möllevångtorget square at 9pm on Saturday night -- one of the busiest times of the week for the area's many bars and restaurants.

15-year-old fatally shot near busy Malmö square
The attackers fired shots through the windows of a pizza restaurant on Ystadsgatan. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
The 15-year-old was one of two teenagers hit when attackers opened fire on a pizzeria on Ystadsgatan before fleeing the scene on bicycles.  
“The shooting happened in an extremely public place, so we are out there collecting witness information and talking to those who have made some observations,” Katarina Rusin, a press spokesperson at the police's operations centre, told the Sydsvenskan newspaper on Saturday night. 
The wounded 15-year-old was still alive when police arrived and was rushed to hospital in an ambulance, but died during the night. The second teenager was taken to hospital in a private car. 
At midnight, police found an abandoned bicycle on Klaragatan, but Rusin told Sydsvenskan it was still too early to know for certain if it was one of those used by the attackers. Patrick Fors, another police press spokesperson, told Sydsvenskan that the police hoped to identify the attackers using CCTV footage, as the area is heavily covered by security cameras. 
Jacob Björkander, who lives in the neighbourhood, told Sydsvenskan that he had been cycling past the spot where the attack took place with his two young children on Saturday evening. 
“It's regrettable, absolutely awful, and lacking in any respect,” he said. “This should be the end of it. It's gone too far. People should be out on the streets showing what they think, that we don't want this in our town.” 
Sydsvenskan interviewed two teenage girls standing outside the restaurant who said that they knew the victim. “We just couldn't bear to sit at home, so we came out here,” they said. 
The shooting came immediately after a bomb exploded under a car near the Kronprinsen (Crown Prince) tower block near the city centre. Police said they had yet to find evidence that the two events were linked or coordinated. 
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
The explosion was powerful enough to shift the car several metres as well as damaging another car parked nearby. 
The twin attacks, coming just a week after the city saw three explosions in the space of 24 hours, reaffirmed the return of the wave of gang-linked shootings and explosions to the city. 
After a spate of shootings in 2018, the number dropped radically in the first half of the year, something some attributed to the police's Sluta Skjut program, which builds on the Group Violence Intervention strategies pioneered by US cities. 
There have now been five fatal shootings in 2019, compared to 13 in 2018 and six in 2017 (see map below for details). 
Here's a map of the 29 explosions to have taken place in Malmö this year. 

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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.”