Police vow to jail 300 gang members in 2012

Government commits to increased spending on multi-pronged war against criminal gangs

If police investigators succeed in their goal, 300 more gang members – 200 from Zealand and 100 from Jutland – will be behind bars by the end of 2012.

On Tuesday, the national police, Rigspolitiet, together with the Justice Ministry, presented parliament with its game plan for increasing pressure on criminal gangs throughout Denmark in 2012. As part of that plan, police named the minimum number of individuals they expect to prosecute this year.

“We’re basing the number on the investigations we already have in the pipeline. That’s why we’re confident about reaching this goal,” Kim Kliver, the head of the national bureau of investigation, Nationale Efterforskningscenter (NEC), told Jyllands-Posten newspaper.

In 2011, police surpassed their goal of putting 250 gang members behind bars. By the end of the year, 356 individuals were either in custody or serving time for gang-related crimes.

Kliver explained that those were mostly the easy cases, involving low-ranking gang members – initiates and foot soldiers. Now police are turning their focus to nabbing the middlemen and leaders. Time will tell if the goal of 300 gang prosecutions in 2012 is on target.

“We’ve plucked the low-hanging fruit. That was easiest in the first years of our anti-gang effort,” Kliver said. “Our experience shows that bikers and gang members are involved in extortion, human trafficking and organised crime in connection with prostitution, murder, assault with intent to kill, and selling weapons and drugs. That’s what we’re going after.”

Although inter-gang violence in Copenhagen has tapered off following a rash of shootings in recent years, investigators note that there still is a simmering competition between the Hells Angels, the Bandidos and several immigrant gangs, that could break out into violence again.

Residents of the Copenhagen commune, Christiania, claimed earlier this year that violent gangs had gained such a strong foothold there, that they were a threat to the community's very existence.

In Copenhagen, gang-related crime and violence has centered around the neighbourhoods of Nørrebro, the Mjølnerparken housing project in Nordvest district, Valby and Christiania. Police added that gang activity in Jutland was growing, particularly around Esbjerg.

Special anti-gang investigative units have already been established in Horsens in Jutland and in the Karlslunde suburb of Copenhagen, with the particular task of gathering evidence towards the arrest and prosecution of members of criminal motorcycle clubs and other gangs.

“There’s evidence that bikers and gangs are parasites on society. They’re profoundly criminal, and there’s a greater need than ever to get rid of them,” the justice minister, Morten Bødskov (Socialdemokraterne), said on Tuesday.

The government has committed 50 million kroner in 2012 to a special project aimed at intercepting and preventing gang recruitment in marginalised areas.

“On the one hand we have to increase our pressure on [gang members], but on the other hand we also have to make sure that at-risk young people aren’t drawn into criminality,” Bødskov added. “We know from different community efforts that there are young people who want to leave the gangs, but they need help – and that’s one place where we have to do more.”