- Domestic violence, fraud, theft, and vandalism among crimes that may increase
- Local stores use discounts and “outdoor shopping” to attract customers
- Västerbotten total infection count stays steady at 42
ÅLIDHEM – Umeå community leaders warned this afternoon that crime might increase during the coronavirus pandemic. In particular, they said, Umeå might see more domestic violence, scams and robberies against the elderly, drug-related attacks, petty theft, and vandalism.
Gudrun Nordborg, Member of Parliament-elect of the Left Party (Vänsterpartiet), told Umeå Today that violence against women and children can be exacerbated when families live in social isolation. “Stressful situations easily occur when they live close to each other,” Nordborg said.
Fraudsters may take advantage of older people alone in their residence, according to Nordborg. Scammers can “claim to be from home care or the police, saying they are there to help, when in fact they steal something of value or get access to the senior’s bank account.”
“Police have also expressed concern,” Nordborg continued, “that competition between criminals increases when illegal drug supply is limited by closed borders. The risk increases for violent clashes between gangs.”
Nordborg stressed, however, that in Sweden, gangs are mostly in big cities, and “hopefully we won’t see this in Umeå.”
Nordborg also said that “closed borders can lead to theft of, for example, bicycles or boats intended for sale abroad.”
Umeå Today reported earlier this week a noticeable increase in vandalism in the city since the coronavirus crisis began. This vandalism is largely graffiti tagging (klotter). “ALL COPS ARE TARGETS” was spray-painted in large letters on the side of the university Police Education building this week. The words appear to have been partially washed off since then.
Graffiti tags have appeared all over the city center, including in historically recognized locations such as Rådhustorget and on the Gymnastikhus on Vasaplan.
Umeå’s branch of the Revolutionary Communist Youth (RKU) this week openly displayed that it was breaking rules about public postering, when it shared on Facebook that it was putting up placards all over Ålidhem, including on properties belonging to housing company Bostaden.
Bostaden told Umeå Today that “it is not permitted to put posters up on our properties. If someone wants to put up a poster, they can use public poster boards.”
The Revolutionary Communist Youth Umeå does not list a local contact person on its website, but responded to a text message on Facebook, claimed that it “didn’t know Bostaden had a policy against that,” and adding “we didn’t see a sign or anything saying it was forbidden to put things there”. The respondee refused to identify him or herself, writing simply, “I speak on behalf of the organization.”
Umeå Today reached out to local police for comment on whether they were also concerned about increasing crime rates, but was told that no response would be available until Monday.
Meanwhile, in contrast to many cities internationally which have been on lockdown due to the coronavirus, central Umeå was largely indistinguishable from a normal spring Saturday this afternoon as groups of people crowded streets and buses. Local retailers tried different strategies to entice customers who might have misgivings about entering stores and possibly catching the virus.
Boutique after boutique on the shopping street Rådhusesplanaden was advertising generous discounts in windows. A salesperson at textiles store Ohlssons Tyger told Umeå Today that markdowns as much as 50 percent were “tempting customers in”. Asked whether the shop had created these discounts as a response to dropping sales due to the pandemic, the salesperson said she believed so, although she was not “100% sure”, and that the decision was made at corporate headquarters.
Other shops have been taking more creative approaches toward attracting customers. Homewares retailer Mia’s Lustgård, nextdoor to Ohlssons Tyger, offered a special “outdoor delivery” system for customers who wanted to buy from the store, but did not want to go inside it. A sign on the sidewalk in front of the shop said: “We take [mobile phone payment system] Swish – Knock if you want to buy something outside!”
Owner Ida Eriksson told Umeå Today that “four or five” people have used the outdoor service. Asked how her customer numbers have changed since the pandemic hit Umeå, Eriksson said that “they’ve definitely gone down, but people are still coming in.” The store had about a dozen customers inside when Umeå Today visited.
National health officials said today that no new coronavirus cases had been identified in Västerbotten since yesterday. The current total is 42.