COPENHAGEN, DENMARK -- Police in the Danish capital Copenhagen are now so overwhelmed by crime and short on resources, that citizens are told to deal with pending assaults on their own - peacefully.
Lars Bisgaard Lund's son was attacked and beaten up by by a gang of four older teenage boys outside his school, and the attack was videotaped. The following day the gang planned to do it again, and Lars Bisgaard Lund (pictured) called the police. But the answer was that he had to cope with the situation himself.
"Police do nothing once the incident has occurred, but will apparently not intervene when it is quite clear that someone is about to get attacked either."
This is the conclusion from Lars Bisgaard Lund, after he last week unsuccessfully tried to get the police to help when four teenage boys assaulted his 14-year-old son.
A few days after the incident he read an article in Berlingske about a stabbing at Islands Brygge. Here it was described how the caller had been rejected with the same message as him. Namely that there were no personnel available to respond to the attack.
Subsequently, the police told Berlingske on the Islands Brygge assault case, that "it may be heavy on Friday and Saturday night in Copenhagen."
"If it's busy, then a report of an assault where the perpetrators have fled the scene, could well be downsized because of areas in the city where for example threatening elements creates insecurity," said the Copenhagen Police.
It surprised Lars Bisgaard Lund. To understand why, we need to rewind time back to Monday, October 10, when his son was on his way home from school.
When his son turned a corner, he was met for by four older youths. They attacked him with kicks and punches until his son managed to free the scene. The four teenagers and a number of spectators stood behind and were grinning by the episode. It appears from the video that the Danish newspaper Berlingske has seen, and allegedly recorded by one of the spectators.
It was a bruised son Lars Bisgaard Lund got home. His face was swollen by the many punches and kicks, and he had blue and yellow marks where fists had struck.
"I would like to report it to the police, but my son did not dare. He was afraid that they would get him even more then. We made an agreement that we would go to the police if it happened again, "says Lars Bisgaard Lund.
No help from police or the school
The day after, the family was afraid that the gang would strike again, so they agreed that Lars Bisgaard Lund would pick up his son from school.
He went there about 14:30 so that he could talk to school officials about the attack. But when Lars Bisgaard Lund arrived, he could immediately see that the four guys stood out front and waited.
"I phoned the police and reported that four teenage boys stood outside and were waiting for my son in front of the school, and that they had beaten him up the day before. I told the woman that I saw that there was a real risk that my son would be attacked, and asked her if they had a patrol that could drop by at 3 o'clock. If there was an assault in progress, they would be able to stop it, otherwise they might be able to have a chat with the four teens about yesterday's assault."
To his great disappointment, the woman said that they had no available manpower, and she therefore suggested that he followed his son out and possibly held the parties apart. But the four boys were all ten cm higher than Lars Bisgaard Lund, and he certainly did not want to end up in a brawl.
"It was not my intention to have to interfere in a fight, and besides, it would of course not solve the problem - it would just move it to the next day. I asked the woman if I should fight back if they attacked us, and she said that I must not fight with anyone, but that I should call the police again if an attack started," says Lars Bisgaard Lund and continues:
"But it was not a very reassuring message, when she had just told me that they had no available patrols, then how can I count on their help if it really went wrong?"
After giving up the police, he went in to speak with school officials, who said they would not intervene in this case because the gang was unrelated to the school. The school says to Berlingske that in such cases it recommends that parents go to the police.
When Lars Bisgaard Lund looked out the window, the gang still stood outside and waited. He then got hold of his son and they found a backdoor so they could escape the school unseen.
"It did not end dramatically, but my point is that the police will not intervene when the danger is over - or when something is about to happen. It amazes me that the police say that they prioritize threatening situations when they can not help me when it's about to happen. It was not a Saturday night I called, but a Tuesday afternoon during normal working hours," says Lars Bisgaard Lund.
Reporting it to the police makes matters worse
On Thursday it happened again. When the son was coming home from confirmation class, he suddenly spotted two of the gang on the opposite side of Østerbro Grade.
The son was scared and started running while the two chased him and tried to catch him. The son, however, had a head start and managed to run away.
What kind of a situation does it give you and your wife as private citizens when neither the school or the police will help?
"It is unsafe. If I had not helped him out of school, he had been attacked. I'm quite sure," says Lars Bisgaard Lund.
You have not yet filed a report to the police. Should you not as citizens of the rule of law do that?
"We are afraid that they will go even more after my son if we report it. At the same time we do not expect that the police will intervene in this case. I can already hear how low priority such a case is given when I get to know that they do not have a patrol available. I have no doubt that it is not a priority," says Lars Bisgaard Lund.
When Lars Bisgaard Lund could not get the police to help in a situation where his son felt threatened by a group of older boys, it is because the priorities and challenges of everyday resources of police in Copenhagen. Deputy Police Inspector Michael Bergmann Møller from Copenhagen Police confirms that the alarm center received a call from Lars Bisgaard Lund, but would not comment on specific cases.
He explains, in general, that the police do not have unlimited amounts of resources and therefore have to prioritize based on the tasks at any given time.
"In some cases we can reprioritize, and in others we have to reject them or let people wait. It all depends on how busy it is in the city at that time. To the extent we determine it is enough to guide people, then we do it," he says and continues:
"There is nothing we would rather do than to respond to all tasks, but unfortunately this is not the reality we experience. Basically, an assault is to be a priority, but we must also be honest and say that it can be rejected if it is not life-threatening."
Michael Bergmann Møller, like Copenhagen Police, point to lack of resources as the reason for the ruthless prioritization.
"We are of course sorry that we can not help all the citizens who are calling us. But we lack the resources at the moment," he says.
A political problem
"When there are examples where citizens have not received help, it shows that there is a challenge with the police. We therefore ask the Minister of Justice to start discussions so that we can relieve the police, where they use a lot of resources," says Trine Bramsen, spokesman for the Social Democrats, and continues:
"We will look at how we can solve our border control smarter, using new technology and other professional groups, and how we can free up some of the resources that are being used for guarding the border at the moment, so that we get more patrols to respond and take care of such offenses against the person. The police must of course have the resources to respond when you call about an assault."
Peter Kofod Poulsen, spokesman for DF, has asked the Minister of Justice whether there is a general problem:
"It is completely unfair if the police can not come when people need help. We believe that we must have 2,000 extra officers. In addition, the defense was suppose to help with border patrols, so we can get more police on the streets again. We must continue the border control, but we are open for that yet more Home Guard troops can handle the task," he says.
In a written response, Justice Minister Søren Pind writes:
"I can understand that it is uncomfortable to be in a situation where you as a parent is seeing that one's child has been assaulted or threatened. I have a clear expectation that the police prioritise reports on citizen-oriented crime strongly, and send a patrol when a person is in a concrete situation of danger. "
He rejects that the border control comes into play in relation to the Copenhagen Police's resources:
"Danish police are doing a good job in a very busy time, and it is important to stress that the Copenhagen police do not deliver any personnel to the border patrol, and even if they do work related to anti-terrorism, their preparedness is as robust today as before the attacks in 2015."
He also notes that the government has allocated DKK 2 billion to the police, that it is training more police officers, and works with new technology and solutions that can relieve the police, like the 125 Home Guard who help at the border.
"The status of all this I'm going to discuss with the parties in the near future," writes Søren Pind.
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