Posted on June 15, 2005

Denmark Plans Crackdown On New Drug Gangs

Reuters, June 14

COPENHAGEN — Denmark plans to crack down on mounting drug-related violence by adopting a plan used successfully in a campaign against criminal motorcycle gangs, Danish authorities said on Tuesday.

Police say the gangs, often consisting of second or third generation immigrants, have been battling each other for months leading to at least two fatal shootings since April.

Since authorities shut down the infamous Pusher Street in Christiania, a free-zone for drugs in central Copenhagen last year, the trade in cannabis has spread through the city leading to a surge in gang violence unusual for the Nordic country.

Police said they would use tactics such as infiltration, wire taps and long-term surveillance to isolate gang members. Similar tactics proved effective against motorcycle gangs whose membership has dwindled under constant police attention.

“Unfortunately, we are facing a new and growing problem in Denmark. We now have a number of criminal bands who commit serious crimes,” Justice Minister Lene Espersen told a news conference.

The closure of Christiania, a hippie collective founded in the early 1970s, and the successful campaign against motorcycle gangs — often linked to the Danish chapters of Hells Angels and the rival Bandidos have cleared the way for the new gangs.

Authorities estimate that several hundred individuals belong to the hard-core centre of the bands. The action plan includes measures to lure less hardened gang members away from crime.

“We’re going to get tough on the gangs and stress them the same way we did to the motorcycle gangs,” Espersen said.

Although drugs are illegal in Denmark, authorities long tolerated the sale of cannabis in Christiania until the current centre right government led by Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen came to power in 2001 on a platform of tax cuts and crackdown on immigrants and asylum seekers.