Government to crack down on gangs

Justice minister will implement stricter gun laws and deny gang members probation but the government’s 200 million kroner anti-gang plan meets criticism from opposition

The justice minister, Morten Bødskov (S), presented today a 200 million kroner plan to deal with the gang crime that plagued the city earlier this year.

"The government is determined to move in against the gangs,” Bødskov said. "Hardcore members who have chosen a path of crime shouldn’t expect any kind of tolerance.”

Among the law proposals, the justice minister wants to increase the penalty for carrying a loaded gun in public to at least 18 months in prison. Carrying an unloaded weapon would still result in a 15-month sentence. Currently, being caught on the street with a loaded gun only carries a one year sentence.

READ MORE: Gang war stressing police and politicians

Bødskov will also make it possible to deny imprisoned gang members release or probation from prison if there is an ongoing gang conflict. He also said an increased effort should be made to help hardened criminals escape from their gang connections.

“They have to be kept away from the streets,” Bødskov said. “However, those criminals who wish to leave the gangs should also have a better opportunity to do so.”

As part of the plan, the government will set aside a pool of money to relocate gang members who want out of the lifestyle and to help individuals remove gang-related tattoos.

READ MORE: Gang crime stretching police resources

Great effort, but small step
Venstre spokesperson Karsten Lauritzen said that he is pleased that the government is doing something to deal with the gang problem, but is sceptical that the anti-gang plan will have the desired effect.

"It's great that they are making an effort, but it's a very small step," Lauritzen told Berlingske newspaper.

READ MORE: Police raid nets 15 gang-related crimes

It was the previous Venstre-led government that implemented the current minimum penalty of a year for bearing arms in public, but now the opposition wants to increase the prison sentences further than what Bødskov has suggested.

Right-wing party Dansk Folkeparti (DF) agreed that the plan is a small step in the right direction, but DF spokesperson Peter Skaarup said that the effort against the gangs needs to be much stronger.

"I think the government has presented some scattered initiatives," he told Berlingske. "If we really want to see an effect, we have to hit them where it hurts, for example by closing down some of the biker gang clubhouses."

In the first half of 2013, police registered 49 gang-related shootings in public areas and confiscated 421 guns – 89 of which were confirmed to be owned by gang members. In the spring, shootings between rival gangs Værebros Hårde Kerne and Loyal to Familia killed two people and caused several injuries.

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