Crime in Denmark is now at its lowest since 1983. In Copenhagen the number of serious crimes, perpetuated by youth of immigrant background, has fallen by 20%, says Nikolaj Jensen, of the Copenhagen police. Copenhagen is the only place in the country where crime statistics differentiate between ethnic Danes and immigrants. However, whatever crime there is, is much more serious.
Copenhagen police says that having a job means a lot for youth and they have had much success with several preventive projects where youth end up with a job. In the past 4 years, more immigrants get to the job market. From 2003 to 2006 there was an increase from 45% to 49%, with expected better results in 2007.
Ahmed Abu-Aishe from Nørrebro, was rescued by a job, getting an apprenticeship as a carpenter and volunteering in a youth club, while before he just hung out in the streets. He says that the job has saved his life, giving him an education and work to think of. It also means a lot to his family.
More and more youth are ending up in gangs. Fahmy Almajid thinks that the authorities did not take the warning signals seriously, though the first immigrant gangs appeared in the 1990's. At the same time, he thinks Denmark will now experience murders being avenged, both by the gangs and by the family of those murdered, since 'honor' has a lot of meaning in the community.
Integration consultant Mohammad Rafiq agrees: there's a large group of youth that the authorities never paid attention to. The youth are a ticking bomb, and we haven't seen the last of them.
An increasing number of incidents of gun violence between rival gangs is being fuelled by an influx of new members, according to a number of experts familiar with Copenhagen's minority communities.
In the most recent incident, a 21-year-old man was shot in the head and killed late Wednesday night in the Nørrebro neighbourhood. He is the first person to be killed in the ten shootings recorded by police in the past month, but Fahmy Almajid, an integration counsellor, warned that the violence will continue as their ranks swell.
'These gangs are growing rapidly right now as young people that have fallen through the cracks join up,' he said.
Police have identified six main gangs with a total of about 150 members in the Copenhagen area. Members typically range between the ages of 15 and 25. Most of the groups are based in the city's southern and western suburbs, but at least two claim the Nørrebro neighbourhood as their turf.
The shootings, however, have not been restricted to gang territory. During one weekend last month, three shootings were reported in downtown Copenhagen and near Christiania, an area with a history of drug-related shootings.
Many of the gangs were founded in the 1990s, and according to Almajid were able to take root because police and social services workers ignored their growth.
Police call the recent spate of shootings unrelated acts of 'payback', but some suggest that they may be part of a showdown for control of the drug market.
The victim of Wednesday's shooting was reportedly a member of a group known as the Sjælør Gang, which takes its name from one of Copenhagen's rougher neighbourhoods. The driver of the car in which he was riding was also shot, but was able to continue to a nearby hospital.
When other members of the gang showed up at the emergency room, they were discovered to have been carrying handguns and wearing bullet-proof vests.
Police and social workers described members of the group as 'hardened criminals', and said that the killing had apparently been an execution, which was likely to be avenged.
'This is a group that fights against everyone,' said police inspector Nikolaj Hansen. 'We're talking about people who lack empathy and morals, and who have a totally different idea of honour than we are accustomed to.'
Sources: Copenhagen Post (English), DR (Danish), Berlingske Tidende (Danish)