Visitation zone shares Copenhagen: “Special treatment”

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Facts: Visitation zones

In 2004, the possibility was introduced for Danish police to establish visitation zones. So far, the zones have been used on around 220 occasions around the country.

The decision is made by the local police chief, the police director, and cannot be appealed.

The zone must be geographically defined and the decision applies initially for two weeks, but can then be extended in installments as long as the police can justify it with reference to specific events.

The police are given the right to randomly search anyone in the zone and also search bags and vehicles.

On December 29, 2022, Danish police introduced a visitation zone in parts of Nørrebro after several stabbings.

Until January 9, 2023, Danish police have searched 163 people and found or seized 18 stabbing weapons, which has led to seven people now being suspected of crime.

In Sweden, visitation zones based on the Danish model have been discussed as a measure against gang crime.

In December 2022, the government and the Sweden Democrats stated that they had taken a decision to investigate the possibility of visitation zones.

Source: Danish police, Swedish parliament

The Copenhagen police have established a search zone after a number of stabbings at the end of December, which means that the police have the right to search people without concrete suspicion.

Last Monday, a young man was stabbed on Nørrebrogade. Three days after the crime, life at the crime scene continues as usual: Copenhageners cycle past the scene unnoticed in the rain.

Cyclists near the site where a young man was stabbed in early January.

A little further down the street, where Nørrebro turns into Nordvest, the police presence is however noticeable.

Several police cars circulate near Mjølnerparken, an area that the Danish state has identified as a “ghetto”, but which has also begun to be filled with trendy bars and cafes.

“Difference if you are an ethnic Dane”

A stone’s throw away from the so-called ghetto, but still within the visitation zone, Naji Ali, 50, runs a reputable bakery.

— I want criminal persons to be punished, but do not think that the police should use visitation zones as a special treatment. If you are an immigrant, young and moving in this area, you can expect to be stopped. It makes a difference if you are ethnic Dane or if you have an immigrant background, he says.

It is a picture that Hanna Munk, 34, shares. In the nine years she has lived on the outskirts of Nørrebro, she has never been stopped by the police, nor does she know anyone who has.

— I don’t feel any more or less safe with a visitation zone, but I’m not personally affected either. So I don’t feel singled out either, she says and continues:

— If it’s a preventive measure, I think it’s good.

Hanna Munk, 34, at Superkilen in Nørrebro, doesn’t notice any difference when Danish police establish a search zone. Has searched 163 people

Danish police themselves believe that the latest visitation zone has had the desired effect for a security-creating purpose.

According to police inspector Tomas Marko Juhl, 163 people have been searched between December 29 and January 9, which has resulted in 18 seized or found stabbing weapons and that seven people are now criminal suspects.

A police car on Frederikssundsvej at Nørrebro station in the current visitation zone.

— In this way, we can say that it gives us something. We have seized weapons in an area that we are focusing on, he says and continues with a rhetorical question to himself:

— Could we have found these weapons without a visitation zone? It is of course difficult to answer, but it also sends a signal that we are focusing on an area where there is a lot of crime.

Aware of the criticism

At the same time, he emphasizes that visitation zones are not their only tool, but only part of a larger toolbox.

— If we only had visitation zones, it probably wouldn’t have made a huge difference. Another important thing we focus on is local police officers. They know both the criminal local residents and want to have a conversation in the public space with them. It is to extend a hand so that they feel seen and heard.

A sign at Superkilen in Nørrebro informs that the area is under camera surveillance.

Tomas Marko Juhl believes that people with a foreign background are not searched more frequently than ethnic Danes because of their appearance, but is well aware that some people feel singled out.

— It’s not like we check people completely at random. There is always a concrete evaluation on site. We start from where they move, who they are with, what time of day it is and how they behave, he says and continues:

— We know that some who have been searched many times feel singled out. They feel that they are being controlled as soon as we establish a visitation zone. Others experience it as something positive and can live with being controlled when things are troubled in an area. So we experience both parts.