Gothenburg youths join gangs – despite interventions

Despite the fact that agencies observed criminal tendencies in a group of youth early on in the Backa neighborhood in Gothenburg, they failed to get the youths to turn their lives around, reports Swedish Radio News.

"Samir" is one of 36 youths Swedish Radio News followed up on since the police noticed criminal tendencies among the group back in 2007. At least 16 of them, including Samir, were convicted of crimes in their teens. Samir, who now is in his 30’s, can be seen as a veteran of the underground criminal world of Gothenburg.

“I think differently now, I won’t set foot in a prison cell. Before I would risk ten years in prison without a problem, just to express ‘don’t mess with me, don’t step on my toes’”, Samir tells Swedish Radio News.

“I’ve been involved in wars. I’ve walked outside with a vest and two guns on me, sometimes I had to wield automatic weapons,” says Samir.

Local police officer in Backa, Håkan Bredinge, says measures taken early on are important. Youth at around 25 years of age can already be deeply involved in criminality.

“There are boys we are worried about, born 2001, 2002, so there are tendencies. Even if it is not heavy criminality, they are certainly in the risk zone. It happens sometime during secondary school, when things start getting worrisome – bad school results. One is impressed and looks up to older gangs with a glint in the eye. So of course there are lots of warning signals when one looks back – I mean we saw it,” says Bredinge.