- Exclusive video of suspected arson includes alarm, blast, and burst of light
- Umeå police: Holmsund fire linked to Tunnelbacken, Ersboda blazes
- Holmsund Social Democrats demand increased police presence
- Umeå city leaders announce steps to prevent further attacks
- Citygoers crowd together despite distancing recommendations
- Västerbotten announces a new coronavirus death
TUNNELBACKEN – Umeå city officials today are busy trying to restore order after four suspected arson care fire attacks over the last two nights in Holmsund, Tunnelbacken, and Ersboda, believed to be revenge against police and perhaps connected to gang drug-dealing. Umeå Today obtained a new, exclusive video of the Tunnelbacken fire, which shows part of a car exploding. Meanwhile, central Umeå buzzed with activity this afternoon, as people overlooked national social distancing guidelines which say to stay apart even when outdoors in order to slow the spread of coronavirus. This comes on a day when city home care workers reported being screamed at and chastized in public by strangers for supposedly spreading the virus, and Västerbotten officials announced another death due to the infection.
A reader sent Umeå Today this morning a new video of the suspected arson in Tunnelbacken. The video was taken from the fifth floor of Gluntensväg 19. At the end of the video, a car alarm goes off, and then an explosion and flash of light can be heard.
The reader said that police were on the scene first, and then the fire department. The reader also said that they did not see anyone suspicious during the fire, and that the cars were removed this morning.
Police this afternoon said that they believed the Holmsund fire early this morning was linked to previous fires as a “way for some criminals we are working on to react against our interventions.”
Umeå Police Chief Michael Rystedt explained that “our active investigation of the few individuals we suspect are behind this is ongoing. No one is currently in custody, but some leads have been discovered.” Police refused to give further details, because, they said, the investigation is still in a preliminary stage.
Holmsund’s Social Democrat party leader Stellan Elebro wrote a public letter this afternoon demanding more police presence in the village, which is part of Umeå Municipality. “In the 2010s, several notable crimes took place in Holmsund,” the letter said, “car fires, violence, chaos on buses, and drug-dealing. Most of these are linked to a few individuals with a solid criminal record. It is, however, inevitable that their network will expand with a lack of local police presence.”
Umeå’s city leaders promised yesterday evening that they would do everything they could to prevent future car fires, even before the Holmsund fire, which broke out early in the morning today. Municipality President Hans Lindberg and Vice President Anders Ågren wrote that “we must do everything we can in the city to facilitate the work of police. However, it is not enough. Everyone must take responsibility to help create a safer Umeå.”
“This is a serious crime,” Ågren wrote, “and it is important that all who have seen, heard, or know anything about this contact the police, so that justice can be done.”
Lindberg and Ågren did not hesitate in calling the fires arson. They said that the city was taking the following steps — primarily focusing on young people, presumed to be the arsonists — to try to prevent further attacks:
- Security presence will be prioritized in areas where youth congregate, particularly in the northeastern part of the city, which includes Ersboda.
- Youth recreation areas will work together to offer summer programs to attract young people and give them jobs during the holiday
- Police, recreation centers, schools, and social services will increase cooperation.
Umeå University criminologist Tage Alalehto wrote to Umeå Today this morning that “if this is revenge for something, then the closest thing we can guess is ethnic profiling by police. That is to say, they are investigating and speaking with people from a special ethnic group.”
“In the end,” he continued, “the people in question perceive this as ethnic discrimination by the police. At the same time, we know that drug trafficking in and around the city is done within certain ethnic groups.”
“These individuals pull out the racist card,” Alalehto claimed, “and thereby legitimize for themselves that the action is directed at a corrupt government.”
“They will do something completely misguided,” he said, “against victims who have nothing to do with the matter. This type of action is usually indicative of frustration and irrationality, which in itself is good, because drug trafficking is decreasing.”
Alalehto also pointed out that statistically, the number of car fires per capita in Sweden and in Umeå has overall decreased since 2003, concluding that “it is wise to think more slowly and with a good foundation, rather than quickly and emotionally.”
Meanwhile, Umeå Today reader Lacey Okonski, who had a view over Rådhustorget in the city center, wrote to Umeå Today that “Everybody is downtown today!” She provided the photo above of the square at lunchtime, with groups of youth and food-cart customers sitting in contact or leaning into each other.
“People do not appear to be using the recommended social distancing,” she wrote. “They seem to be sitting right next to one another on the [speaker’s podium] stage and standing in line at a close proximity.”
“Pedestrian traffic is certainly the most I’ve seen in weeks,” she continued, “and perhaps similar to pre-pandemic.”
At the same time, city-employed home care workers report being yelled at on the street for spreading the coronavirus. These workers can often be identified by signs attached to their city-issued bicycles. One worker, Ingela Johansson, told Västerbottens-Kuriren that on the way to visit a patient, one of two older men together blurted out, “Look, there goes the source of the infection.”
“It is very humiliating,” she said, “that people can show such fear and disgust to us who work to help the old and sick.”
Erik Strömberg, an assistant nurse in Grubbe, told the newspaper that “people stand and scream at us, as if we’re inflected with the plague. I’ve never dealt with anything like it.”
Västerbotten officials reported another death today due to the coronavirus, although they provided no details about the patient’s characteristics or location. The total number of confirmed infections in the county increased by three to 244, with the number in the hospital constant at 22.