Joakim Palmkvist is the author of several books and a long time crime reporter for Sydsvenskan. His new book Den undre världen is a historical and personal reflection on the criminal underworld of Malmö.
Your previous book about gang crime in Malmö was called Maffiakrig (Mafia War). Can you talk about a mafia in Malmö? What other terms could be used to describe organized crime here?
Not a mafia in the sense of the Sicilian kind, with a firmly designated leader and hierarchy and people taking a blood oath and the like. But a mafia does exist, on the other hand, in the sense of a parallel society, a criminal underworld with its own rules and laws and an alternative administration of justice. In this regard, we have a clear mafia culture that is evident throughout the country.
What kind of groups are involved in the current conflicts in Malmö?
There are no separate and clear groups, but rather liquid constellations consisting a couple of hundred young people.
Are the older generations excluded from these conflicts? What is the role of biker gangs and ex-Yugoslav networks today?
Really, this is a question that really needs its own book to sort out. But to keep it short: there are individuals left from the ex-Yugoslav networks of varying capacity. The motorcycle gangs, in the sense of Hells Angels and Bandidos, are still active, but considerably less visible compared to before. The assessment is that they act as guarantors or culprits for other criminal schemes.
Why does Malmö stand out in this context?
Malmö doesn’t. The situation is the same in the other big cities in Sweden. Malmö is special due to it being a little smaller and more geographically compact than Göteborg or Stockholm, which means that the groups and networks are closer to each other.
What do you think is the most important factor in reversing the trend?
Breaking the culture of silence in any and all ways possible. For example, by facilitating witness testimony and making it easier to be a witness, and even using state witnesses and anonymous witnesses in exceptional cases. Very large resources need to be invested in helping people to drop out of criminal gangs and to testify against and incriminate their former fellow gang members.