The western Copenhagen suburb of Albertslund suffered its 99th arson attack in six months when the recently-closed youth centre Frihjulet was burned to the ground Tuesday night.
That fire follows arson attacks on two containers and a shed in the past week and has police and the council under pressure to identify the culprits and bring the wave of fires to an end.
“Since 21 September 2012, we have suffered 99 fires in Albertslund,” Mikael Storgaard, deputy police inspector of Albertslund's local police force, told Politiken newspaper. “All sorts of objects have been set on fire including containers, cars, outhouses and now the youth house. We think the 99 fires are connected and think that there is a group of people responsible for all of them.”
A 19-year-old was arrested and interviewed by Copenhagen Vestegn Police yesterday. He was released but remains charged with arson.
Despite the one arrest, the council fears that the arson attacks will continue until the culprits are identified and apprehended.
“Frihjulet has been attacked three times and now they succeeded in burning it down,” Mikkel Nielsen, head of crime prevention at Albertslund Council, told Politiken. “Since [Frihjulet] was closed in January, we have been in constant dialogue with our youth. We have talked about how it would operate if it opened again because it used to have a really bad atmosphere.”
Nielsen added that the police and council have been holding meetings with young people belonging to groups that are suspected of being responsible for the arson attacks, as well as their parents.
Despite these efforts, the arson attack against the youth centre went ahead.
“Albertslund needs to step up and help the police end this. We don’t have a magic bullet, and have since September tried to fight this without success. Now we need to stand together to solve it.”
He added: “We need to involve the entire local community. We can’t solve it unless Albertslund helps,” Nielsen said. “Help us, we’ve run out of ideas.”