- Police look for clues to suspected arson which destroyed a dozen cars
- Ersboda witness saw a “gang of youths” prior to fire
- Owner watches as dog, Vera, is killed in car in Ersboda fire
- Several stores reported burglarized in Mariehem
- Umeå health care staff, working intensely, still do not know summer holiday schedule
- Umeå artists, including Dennis Lyxzén, say “it’s almost impossible” to get work during crisis
TUNNELBACKEN – In the early hours of Sunday morning, two sets of cars — a dozen altogether — were set ablaze in Tunnelbacken and Ersboda, killing a dog. The police suspect arson. The fires were just two incidents in what police called “a night of high-workload”, which included two other cases of destruction of private property in Böleäng and which was preceded by the reported burglary of several stores in Mariehem the previous night.
This afternoon, another house in Ersboda — an apartment complex’s communal space on Spanngränd just behind Ersboda Folkets Hus — also caught ablaze, causing scores of firefighters to rush to the scene. Police have not said whether they believe the Spanngränd fire is related to the suspected arsons.
The Ersboda fire started in a parking garage on Ystarvägen, just east of Ersboda Handelsområde. A witness told Västerbottens-Kuriren that they reported to police that “a gang of youths, about the age of 20, were on the patio next to the garage” before fire erupted. The Tunnelbacken fire took place in the parking lot between two apartment buildings on Gluntensväg. Fire alarms went off at 1:12 and 1:35 AM in Ersboda and Tunnelbacken, respectively, police say.
A border collie named Vera, the “best friend” of Ersboda maintenance worker Amanda Engkvist, was killed inside one of the cars, SVT reports. Engkvist said she watched as the fire raged. “I was in shock. I couldn’t take it. I only thought about how she was in the car and had to get out.”
“There’s been a lot of people in the street today to see the burned cars,” a Tunnelbacken resident, who lives one building over from the fire’s location, told Umeå Today. “If I were the police, I would look into installing a camera for a few days. Arsonists come to admire their work.” In February, some 40 cars burned in a parking area in Mariehem, in what police also suspect was arson. Motives for recent city arson attacks are unclear.
Umeå Today visited the scene in Tunnelbacken and took a 360 degree VR scrollable image of the destruction. (Scroll right to see the burned cars and inspectors examining them.)
Later in the morning, at 3:56 AM, police say they arrived a scene in Böleäng where vandals had destroyed two postboxes. And on Saturday just after noon, police were called to Mariehem to investigate the burglary of several stores that “probably happened the previous night”.
Just last week, an Umeå Today investigation showed that violent crime had dropped steeply in Umeå since the coronavirus crisis hit. However, Umeå Today has reported multiple times seeing an increase in vandalism in the city during the pandemic, including the words “ALL COPS ARE TARGETS” spray-painted on the University Police Education Building. Local environmental protection experts have suggested that with emptier streets, it is easier for vandals to get away with their crimes, as there may be fewer witnesses.
This past Tuesday, Umeå Today reached out to local police for comment on the observed increase in defacement of property. “We have not noticed any increase in the number of reports [of graffiti] during March to today’s date in April,” replied spokesperson Malin Axroth.
As police resources are being pulled toward investigating the rash of crimes, Umeå University Hospital staff are working around the clock to care for the increasing number of patients infected with coronavirus.
The total number of confirmed cases in Västerbotten rose by eight to 238 today, with 21 in the hospital and 10 in intensive care, regional officials announced.
Many of Umeå’s health care workers do not know whether and when they will get holidays this summer, according to Sveriges Radio. Normally, holiday dates are announced two months ahead of time, but the pandemic has demanded extra work and shuffling of schedules. This year, Västerbotten officials and unions are in much longer negotiations than usual.
“We hope and believe that we will get some sort of message next week,” Brita Winsa, Västerbotten’s health and medical director, told Sveriges Radio, “so that we will be able to then notify staff of the situation.”
Meanwhile, Umeå artists are being especially hard hit by the economic effects of the crisis. Mia Westin, an Umeå-based freelance cultural worker, told Sveriges Radio that “March until May are usually my most hectic months.”
“Now, for the first time in ten years, my email inbox and telephone are silent,” she said.
This morning, Umeå Today published an interview with Dennis Lyxzén, vocalist of the internationally-famous Umeå hardcore band Refused, asking him to reflect on the difficulties that artists face during the coronavirus crisis. “In general, it is insanely hard to be a musician and make that work. In times like these, it’s almost impossible,” he said.
“I can’t even imagine what the city will look like after all of this,” Lyxzén continued. “Maybe hopefully people will be starved for live-music, and tons of great music will come out of isolation. One can only hope.”