Police suspect a 10 car fire in Ersboda last night was another in a string of arson in Umeå.
ERSBODA – The stench of burning steel and ash filled the air today around a car shelter at Filgränd 11 in Ersboda, where 10 cars burned overnight, as Umeå’s arson wave has now lasted almost three months. About eight police officers were at the scene at 10 o’clock this morning, gathering physical evidence and talking to local residents, trying to find clues to who the arsonists are and why they are setting so much property on fire. Meanwhile, neighbors and curious visitors drifted around and occasionally photographed the wreckage, sometimes chatting, with worried expressions on their faces.
Police say that the first witnesses to the fire reported it shortly after midnight. A person at the scene, with the online handle of Andreas Lundmark, posted a video on YouTube of blinking emergency vehicles and a helicopter surveying it all from the air.
In the video, two men are narrating what they see. “There are so many cars. Burning car, burning car, burning car, burning car, burning car,” one man seems to be counting. “Damn, how that smells!” says the other.
Umeå Today took a 360 degree, scrollable picture of the scene this morning:
The burned car shelter was in a parking lot surrounded by multiple-story residences on one side, and houses on the other. Next to the shelter is a small garage with a sign that says, “This area under camera observation.” That garage, along with the shelter, was taped off by police.
During the night, police say, they talked to witnesses and searched the area with crime dogs. By 11:30 this morning, police put out a statement saying they suspected arson. That makes this the seventh suspected case of major arson in Umeå since February. In order, they are:
- Four cars burned in Ostvägen, Ersboda, February 7
- 40 cars burned in Mariehemsvägen, Mariehem, February 14
- One car burned in Mariehemsvägen, Mariehem, April 14
- Five cars burned in Ystarvägen, Ersboda, April 19
- Seven cars burned in Gluntensväg, Tunnelbacken, April 19
- An apartment complex’s communal space burned on Spänngränd, Ersboda, April 19
- Four cars burned on Solskenet, Holmsund, April 21
On May 5, a car and the entry to police headquarters in Vännäs were also burned in suspected arson.
Ersboda residents express increased fear as police say they are investigating the fires vigorously.
Several Ersboda inhabitants told SVT today that they do not feel safe living there. One witness, Carina Marcusson, said she saw “something like flames on the walls” of the car shelter. “Then, I understood that now, something is happening.”
“I’m sad,” she said, “because I think that this is happening too much now. I do not feel secure.”
“We have a car shelter and a garage,” she added, “and so it is only a matter of time before the fires hit us.”
“It is too early to know whether this fire is connected with previous fires,” said Umeå police spokesperson Michael Rystedt, “but of course, this is a scenario we are investigating.”
Police have no suspect for the most recent fire. However, Rystedt did say that police work was continuing with “unrelenting force.”
“Our focus remains on a few individuals who cause disorder and commit crimes,” he said, adding, “It is my conviction that our hard work will produce a positive result.”
Rystedt later in the day expanded on how the police are investigating the arson wave. “There are a lot of people who have more information, and may have seen or heard things linked to the fires,” he told Västerbottens-Kuriren. “I would also like to stress that we have police officers in these areas who are not as visible, so-to-speak.”
“It is so terribly unnecessary,” he said. “It is really tragic and unacceptable to behave in this way.”
Gangs, drug trafficking, intimidation of police — and the pandemic — are all suspected causes.
After the April fires, Umeå criminologist Tage Alalehto told Umeå Today that car fires might have a connection with gang activity and drug trade, heightened during the coronavirus crisis. He said that some members of a gang might set a fire to distract the police, while a drug delivery occurs in another part of the city. International borders closed due to the pandemic may be exacerbating domestic illegal drug activity, he said, and having fewer pedestrians on the streets to witness attempted crimes makes it easier for arsonists to get away unseen.
Speaking today to Västerbottens-Kuriren, Malmö criminologist Manne Gerell had another explanation. “When people are upset with the police or some other authority, social turmoil can arise. Car fires are then usually a way to express frustration. People are angry, and disenfranchised, and want to get out of it by damning the community. If we suffer, they will suffer too.“
Both Alalehto and Gerell said that a small percentage of car fire arson cases in Sweden are solved.
Umeå University’s 2020 autumn Welcome Fair is cancelled, according to a report.
Västerbottens-Kuriren said today that Umeå University put out a press release saying that this autumn’s Welcome Fair for new students is cancelled. Umeå Today was not able to confirm this information. According to the newspaper, the university said that the pandemic makes it impossible to physically set up the fair, which usually contains many booths representing student organizations, in a tight area packed with visitors. Instead, “a digital welcome will be broadcast live at lunchtime, one of the days in the first week after the semester starts,” the report says.
Umeå now has 126 total confirmed coronavirus infections.
Västerbotten officials today released the number of people who have tested positive for coronavirus in each municipality in the county. The highest number is in Skellefteå, with 137. The highest rate of known infections per capita is in Robertsfors, with 4.89 per 1000 residents. Umeå has 126 confirmed infections, for a rate of 0.98 per 1000.