Iceland, a polar land, concerned about a series of violence

Posted on Sunday 10th April 2022 at 08:24

Goodbye, “the most peaceful country in the world”? Several shootings and stabbings have shaken the usual calm in Iceland in recent months, linked, according to police, to criminal gangs.

At the top of the Global Peace Index since it was included in the rankings in 2008, the small country of 375,000 people is more used to the crime novels in its blockbuster films than to the headlines.

Sociologist Helge Gunlaugsson said, “The Icelanders’ firearm symbolizes sport or hunting.”

“But in the collective mind it is very strange to use a weapon to protect yourself or target someone,” he told AFP.

There have only been four gun murders on the island since 2000. But in just over a year, there have already been four shootings, including one fatal.

Icelanders shocked, in February 2021, the assassination of a man who was shot with nine bullets outside his home in a residential area of ​​Reykjavik. Police said the killing was linked to organized crime.

Criminologist Margrethe Waldemarsdottir analyzes “criminal groups in Iceland are increasingly organized”. “They have more connections to international groups than we’ve seen before, which can be a challenge to our police forces.”

In February, two personal disputes between individuals who had already been convicted for drug smuggling, ended with a shooting in the city center, with an interval of two days.

“We used to say that it takes five to ten years to see what we observe in Iceland elsewhere in Europe,” explains Ronlfur Thorholsson, commissioner of the elite unit of the Icelandic police.

“Of course, that matters to us,” he admits.

– Unarmed police –

Iceland is one of the few countries in the world where the police do not carry weapons in the performance of their official duties.

However, since the end of 2015, service cars have been equipped with pistols in special lockers, a measure that was taken after the attacks in Oslo and Otoya in 2011.

Only a limited number of police officers from the elite unit, the Vikings squad, are permanently equipped: flak jackets, semi-automatic weapons or even ballistic armor.

Introduced in 1982, its primary mission is to assist the National Police when reporting the presence of weapons. The number of his interventions has doubled by about six since 2014.

“Nous observons une tendance o les individus de notre monde criminel sont moins hésitants à utiliser des armes, plus avec des couteaux d’ailleurs que des armes à feu”, note M. Thórhallsson, reconnaissant être liqueurque quelé the reasons.

If the arming of all the forces of the regime in the country is not seriously considered, the Ministry of the Interior plans to provide the police with electro-shock weapons.

The latter would be in her favour, but above all would require more means, according to Wollner Symondsson, president of the National Federation.

With 682 police officers in 2021, Iceland has the relatively lowest numbers in Europe after Finland, according to Eurostat, with a level nearly double the European average.

– safe country –

Studlar, a government institution located on the outskirts of Reykjavik, takes care of children and adolescents aged 12-18 with difficulties – drug problems, criminality, serious behavioral problems …

Its manager Vonnie Sigurdsson says he has also noticed a slight rise in violent incidents.

For this 43-year-old father, with “some children arriving at this institution, one can know from the age of six that they will end up here.”

“If we had intervened well from that moment on, we might have been able to prevent them from finding themselves in this situation.”

Several individuals recently involved in the settling of accounts were also through his foundation.

But if the situation is worrying in a country unaccustomed to violence, then it is not alarming, experts emphasize.

“It is important to note that Iceland is still a country with a very low crime rate,” Valdemarsdottir said.

“But, at least according to the police, we are seeing more violent attacks in Iceland.”

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