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EXPLAINED: Why are Copenhagen police cracking down on late night party noise?

Copenhageners planning to take advantage of long summer evenings should be aware of a new campaign and several new rules aiming to limit late night noise in the city. The Local's contributor Sarah Redohl explains.

EXPLAINED: Why are Copenhagen police cracking down on late night party noise?
Groups of mostly young people often bring portable music systems when enjoying the summer in parks. Photo: Ida Guldbæk Arentsen/Ritzau Scanpix

What are the Copenhagen police doing? 

Copenhagen Police, together with Copenhagen Municipality, have launched a new campaign, Alle skal kunne være her, meaningEveryone should be able to be here, to limit late night noise in the city throughout the summer.

The municipality has also announced new rules for several popular outdoor gathering spots, and is currently working on a plan to address these problems long-term.

How big a problem is noise pollution from people with portable speakers? 

According to the municipality, late night noise has increased in recent years, especially in 2020.

“The problem was particularly felt last year due to the Covid shutdown of the usual nightlife locations, which resulted in the party moving into parks and recreational areas,” said Søren Geert Nielsen, head of Copenhagen Municipality’s noise division.

“We do not want to prevent people from having a good time in the city, but we do have an obligation to make sure that due consideration is paid to noise-plagued neighbours.” 

Music nuisance complaints to the Copenhagen Police increased from 238 in June 2015 to 533 in June 2019, skyrocketing to 1,233 complaints in June 2020.

The police logged roughly 200 complaints in the first week of June 2021 alone.

Although Covid-19 restrictions have continued to be relaxed, the last remaining restrictions aren’t expected to end until October 2021, so the city may be in for a similarly loud summer.

What is the campaign doing? 

In an effort to encourage outdoor party-goers to be more considerate of other residents, the new campaign is placing posters and other signs at popular outdoor gathering spots. It is also launching a campaign on social media.

From June 28th to July 4th, the Copenhagen Police and volunteers from the Natteravnene (literally, “The Night Ravens”, a neighbourhood organisation) will engage in dialogue with party-goers in the streets.

Copenhageners are also being asked to come and pick up their own campaign posters at Kihoskh, a popular Copenhagen alcohol shop, at Sønder Boulevard 53, to support the message.

What else does Copenhagen police think is behind the problem? 

Peter Dahl, chief superintendent at the Copenhagen Police, said Covid-19 restrictions are just one of many factors that increase outdoor gatherings, adding that warm weather is also a primary factor.

According to data from Copenhagen Municipality, noise complaints related to restaurants and bars have increased 60 percent from 2015 to 2019. Complaints peaked in 2018, a particularly warm summer, with a total of 4,547 registered complaints.

Copenhagen Mayor Lars Weiss said he understood why people were eager to spend time with friends following the Covid-19 lockdowns, but said that this had to be balanced with consideration for other residents.

“I hope the campaign – together with a number of other initiatives – can help prevent the party in the street from taking over this summer,” he said. 

What else are the authorities doing? 

Other initiatives include more frequent supervision of bars and restaurants playing outdoor music and a ban on electronically amplified music in select locations around the city, such as Havneparken on Islands Brygge, Hørsholmparken in Nørrebro, and the part of the Fælledparken park that faces Serridslevsvej.

An experimental ban forbids electronically amplified music – defined as anything that has a battery or electrical connection, from mobile music to speakers – after 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and after 8pm from Sunday to Thursday, as well as on public holidays.

In addition to signs explaining the new rules in each of those areas, police officers will be visibly present at popular late night party spots, Police Director Anne Tønnes said.

Dahl said that the Copenhagen Police have a dialogue-based approach to policing and will most often issue a warning before issuing a fine for playing amplified music in public.

“In the new zones,” he added, “we have the opportunity of issuing charges without warning. If our order to turn off amplified music is not followed, then we can impound the music player.”

Night hosts (natteværter), easily visible in their blue jackets, will also increase their presence throughout the summer. This initiative to promote safety and reduce nuisances related to nightlife was launched in March 2019 and has played a role in promoting Covid-19 safety regulations around the city since March 2020. 

Will there be legislation in future? 

Future efforts to limit late night noise centre around the 2021 Restoration and Nightlife plan, which the municipality’s culture and leisure committee and its technical and environmental committee sent for public consultation at the end of May. 

An earlier version of the plan, which called for a ban on alcohol sales from midnight to 5am, was shelved earlier this year, not only because of the impact such a ban would have on Copenhageners, but also on a nightlife industry which has suffered through more than a year of Covid-19 restrictions.

The latest version instead focuses on increasing the number of natteværter, cooperation with stakeholders within the nightlife industry, and identification of party zones so solutions can be found for specific streets, among other measures. 

Culture and Leisure Mayor Franciska Rosenkilde said she looked forward to receiving Copenhageners’ input on the plan.

“It is important that Copenhagen continues to be a city where you can both party and live,” she said. 

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Calls for special police tactics to be available across Sweden

The chairwoman of the Police Association West Region has said that police special tactics, known as Särskild polistaktik or SPT, should be available across Sweden, to use in demonstrations similar to those during the Easter weekend.

Calls for special police tactics to be available across Sweden

SPT, (Särskild polistaktik), is a tactic where the police work with communication rather than physical measures to reduce the risk of conflicts during events like demonstrations.

Tactics include knowledge about how social movements function and how crowds act, as well as understanding how individuals and groups act in a given situation. Police may attempt to engage in collaboration and trust building, which they are specially trained to do.

Katharina von Sydow, chairwoman of the Police Association West Region, told Swedish Radio P4 West that the concept should exist throughout the country.

“We have nothing to defend ourselves within 10 to 15 metres. We need tools to stop this type of violent riot without doing too much damage,” she said.

SPT is used in the West region, the South region and in Stockholm, which doesn’t cover all the places where the Easter weekend riots took place.

In the wake of the riots, police unions and the police’s chief safety representative had a meeting with the National Police Chief, Anders Tornberg, and demanded an evaluation of the police’s work. Katharina von Sydow now hopes that the tactics will be introduced everywhere.

“This concept must exist throughout the country”, she said.

During the Easter weekend around 200 people were involved in riots after a planned demonstration by anti-Muslim Danish politician Rasmus Paludan and his party Stram Kurs (Hard Line), that included the burning of the Muslim holy book, the Koran.

Police revealed on Friday that at least 104 officers were injured in counter-demonstrations that they say were hijacked by criminal gangs intent on targeting the police. 

Forty people were arrested and police are continuing to investigate the violent riots for which they admitted they were unprepared. 

Paludan’s application for another demonstration this weekend was rejected by police.

In Norway on Saturday, police used tear gas against several people during a Koran-burning demonstration after hundreds of counter-demonstrators clashed with police in the town of Sandefjord.