Sweden distraught in the face of the grip of its mafia clans

Sweden helpless in the face of its mafia clans

STOCKHOLM | In Sweden, the police and the government are sounding the alarm bells on the hold of dozens of mafia clans which, according to them, are rampant in the kingdom, against the backdrop of a worrying increase in shootings and other violent settling of scores in the rather peaceful country Nordic.

Ignoring the authorities in the name of the clan, these “family gangs” now exert considerable influence in several disadvantaged areas of large Swedish cities, without the government or the police finding a truly effective parade, deplore experts.

“It is a poison in our society that we must get rid of,” Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven declared at the beginning of September.

Grenade explosions in buildings, plastic cars, drug trafficking, blackmail feed the pages of various facts, when witnesses are often too frightened by reprisals to testify.

“Have you seen the movie 'The Godfather?' Journalist Johanna Backström Lerneby, author of a book on one of Sweden's most famous criminal families, asks AFP, “so you see what it is.”

Several people linked to the clan that the journalist explores in her book “The family” were talked about in August, when a conflict broke out with a rival gang. Taking the place of the police, they set up makeshift roadblocks in their difficult Gothenburg neighborhood, Angered, stopping cars and asking for IDs from anyone passing by.

In order to “protect the residents and children of the area”, argued one of them on SVT television.

Authorities on the key

Hostilities ceased at the end of August. But not thanks to the police: the epilogue came during a meeting of members of several gangs in a hotel in Gothenburg.

“It's extremely frustrating,” admits local police officer Fredrik Terje. “It is these criminal networks that have reached a peace agreement and set a program, while we, the authorities, have remained on the sidelines,” he told SVT.

The issue has resurfaced in the media in recent days since Deputy National Police Chief Mats Löfving publicly declared that there were “at least 40 family criminal gangs” in Sweden.

These families, he said, came to Sweden purely for the purpose of committing crimes, bringing their parallel systems with them. The senior police official also suspects them of being able to influence political and business spheres, especially in neighborhoods with a large immigrant population.

Carrying out a generous immigration policy from the 1990s until 2016, Sweden has struggled to integrate tens of thousands of new arrivals in recent years into its highly qualified labor market.

“Those who live in these vulnerable areas are often relatively poor people who have no choice,” says Johanna Backström Lerneby.

In early August, a 12-year-old girl, in all likelihood not targeted, was fatally injured in Norsborg, a modest but usually calm suburb in southern Stockholm.

“Stressful” situation

Globally peaceful, Sweden has a low homicide rate (1.07 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2018, compared to 2.39 for the European average), according to Eurostat.

The Swedish Minister of the Interior, however, says he is worried about the rise of these mafias. “These networks have been around for some time in Sweden. They were able to establish themselves, in particular in vulnerable areas of Sweden, where the state is not sufficiently present, ”said Mikael Damberg in an interview with AFP.

The police have set themselves the objective of increasing their presence in these neighborhoods, an important step “to show that Swedish law applies in Sweden”, explained the minister.

The government has adopted a series of measures since the end of 2019, including giving more surveillance power to the police and tougher penalties for drug and weapons crimes. But police officials recently acknowledged difficulties.

“We are working intensively, 24 hours a day, and despite this, significant violence continues (…), we are not backing down and we are not giving up, but the current situation is very stressful”, declared at the end of August the head of the national police, Anders Thornberg.

In the first half of 2020, 20 people were killed in 163 shootings in the kingdom of 10.3 million people, according to police. Last year, 42 people were killed, for 334 incidents.

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