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Denmark 2018 Crime & Safety Report

Europe > Denmark; Europe > Denmark > Copenhagen

 

According to the current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication, Denmark has been assessed as Level 2. Exercise increased caution due to terrorism.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Copenhagen does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizens’ Services unit (ACS) cannot recommend a particular individual or location, and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Copenhagen as being a MEDIUM-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Please review OSAC’s Denmark-specific page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Crime Threats

According to Danish police, some criminal activity in Denmark is increasing, and peripheral individuals may be vulnerable to radicalization. Police have discovered in some cases that crimes committed by nomadic criminal groups are organized by foreign nationals with permanent residence in Denmark, who use their knowledge of the Danish social system to commit sophisticated criminal activities like human smuggling, weapons trafficking, and other economic crimes.

Between 2014 and 2017, broad categories of reported crime decreased, but organized crime, including drug-related offenses, violence against public officials, economic crimes, and human trafficking-related crimes, increased. Reported sexual assaults, weapon-related crimes, and resisting/assaults on public officials increased by 81%, 13%, and 100% respectively. Burglaries have decreased throughout Denmark by 20% since 2014. Pickpockets, skimmers, PIN eavesdroppers, and other petty criminals operate aggressively at tourist attractions, train stations, airports, and on public buses. Local pickpockets/ATM shoulder surfers operate in teams of two or three, with one or more distracting the victim while another steals the victim’s valuables/information. 

According to the National Center of Investigation, there are two biker gangs (Hells Angels and the Bandidos) and two large immigrant gangs (Brothas and Loyal to Familia) in Denmark. These gangs are involved in a wide range of crimes including crimes against property, drug sales, extortion, economic crimes (fraud and tax evasion), robbery, and weapons trafficking. Gang-related crime is also typically very violent. Many gangs use legal business structures and expertise to execute criminal activities especially in regard to money laundering and the sale of stolen goods via auction houses. In November 2017, 285 members of gangs were in prison in Denmark.

Rising gang violence in Copenhagen was a dominant theme for public discussion in the media and among political leaders in 2017. From June 2017 through January 2018, police recorded 42 shootings, four knife attacks, and arrested 36 people in connection with these crimes. At least two innocent bystanders suffered serious injuries. This wave of violence led the Danish National Police to establish “visitation zones,” areas where police may stop and frisk people without probable cause, in the Copenhagen communities most affected by the violence. A truce established in December 2017 between two of Denmark’s largest immigrant gangs, appears to have resulted in a reduction in gang violence. Danish police discontinued the use of visitation zones in January 2018. 

Cybersecurity Issues

Denmark is one of the most digitized countries in the world. Consequently, cybercrime continues to be one of the biggest threats to the heavily connected public and private sectors. According to the Intelligence Risk Assessment 2017 published by the Danish Defense Intelligence Service (DDIS), “…[d]igitization and the use of new technology…introduced new vulnerabilities that make Denmark a target for cyber attacks.” In fact, the National Strategic Analysis reported that IT-related economic crime has increased by 300% since 2009. DDIS’s Intelligence Risk Assessment 2016 warns:

  • "The threat of cyber espionage is directed at the entire public sector. Main targets of the persistent threat have been authorities that are vital to Danish foreign and security policy.”

  • “The threat against private companies is particularly aimed at research-heavy and high-tech industries and sectors. Here, several state actors have taken direct aim at companies in Denmark in recent years.”

  • “State actors also attempt to compromise service providers and subcontractors to other companies to gain knowledge about negotiations, products, or other sensitive information.”

Other Areas of Concern

There are no areas of Denmark that are off limits to official American travelers. The Embassy advises travelers to be cautious in the neighborhoods of Nørrebro and Christiania. Nørrebro is a less affluent, but steadily gentrifying, area with higher levels of violent street crime, narcotics dealing, and gang activity. Local gang conflicts and demonstrations in Nørrebro and adjoining neighborhoods occasionally result in violence. 

Visitors to the Free Town of Christiania, a self-proclaimed autonomous neighborhood in the Christianshavn section of Copenhagen, should also exercise caution and avoid displaying cameras. Christiania has long hosted one of the largest illegal hash markets in Europe. Christiania’s narcotics dealing activity has been linked to organized crime groups, including outlaw motorcycle gangs. Police regularly carry out raids in an effort to restrict the cannabis trade. Drug enforcement efforts have led to violent confrontations between police and Christiania residents, including a 2016 shooting that left a police officer injured and criminal suspect dead. During a raid in Christiana on January 23, 2018, the local news reported that police were met by approximately 20 masked men, who attacked the officers with stones and bottles. Tourists have also been harassed, assaulted, and robbed for breaking Christiania’s strict no-photography policy.

On September 29, 2017, Danish Armed Forces were deployed domestically for the first time since World War II to assist police in protecting potential terror targets in Copenhagen and to support border controls in the south of the country. Travelers should be aware of temporary border controls manned by the Danish National Police and Armed Forces

Transportation-Safety Situation

For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.”

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Road conditions are very good and are on par with Western European and U.S. standards. Denmark is extremely bicycle-friendly, and there are bicycle lanes located throughout the country, usually paralleling vehicular lanes. Many urban streets also have traffic lanes reserved for public transport or cycles only. This can cause difficulties for drivers who are unfamiliar with the area or with Danish rules of the road. U.S. drivers should be aware that right turns are not permitted at red lights, and drivers must not begin right turns across bicycle lanes until the road behind is clear of bicycles. Traffic laws are strictly enforced, using both overt and covert means. Violations can result in stiff fines and jail sentences. Driving is on the right side of the road.

You must be 18 to drive. U.S. tourists may use their state driver’s license for up to 90 days. Long-term residents must obtain a valid Danish driver’s license. Road signs use standard international symbols. Use of seat belts is mandatory for drivers and passengers. Driving any vehicle, including bicycles, under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a very serious offense. It is against the law to drive while using a hand-held cell phone.

Public Transportation Conditions

The public transportation system is highly reliable, punctual, and relatively safe. Travelers are reminded to be alert for pickpockets on any public transportation system.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

The airport adheres to international air safety and flight operation standards. Security measures for international flights are on par with U.S. airport requirements, and the security personnel are well-trained and effective in the performance of their duties.

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Copenhagen as being a HIGH-threat location for terrorist activity directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

Because of Denmark’s active foreign/security policies and the country’s association with the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, Denmark remains an inviting target for those who sympathize with militant Islam. Terrorism remains one of the three biggest threats to Denmark according to the Danish Defense Intelligence Service. The Center for Terror Analysis (CTA) in 2017 assessed the terror threat to Denmark is mainly posed by lone individuals with the “intent and capability to commit terrorist attacks” and foreign fighters returning to their country of origin, but CTA warned of the threat from planned, more sophisticated attacks like those witnessed in Paris (November 2015) and Brussels (March 2016).

According to CTA, at least 150 people have left Denmark for Syria or Iraq since the summer of 2012. CTA also believes that about 33% of the travelers have returned to Denmark, 20% remain in the conflict zone, 25% are assumed dead, and the remaining individuals are in third countries. Currently, “[w]omen now constitute one third of the individuals from Denmark who are located in the conflict zone and nearly one in every eight of those who traveled from Denmark to the conflict zone in total.”  CTA warns of the “…growing role [of women] within Islamist circles in Denmark, and the threat to symbolic (e.g., individuals and institutions that are perceived as offensive to Islam) and Jewish targets”. Consequently, “lone wolf” style attacks similar to the 2015 incidents at the Krudttønden cultural center and the synagogue in central Copenhagen may take place without prior warning.

Extremists have carried out attacks across Europe in 2017, and there remains a potential for attacks throughout Europe, to include Denmark. Rumiyah, the publication from ISIS, called for attacks against Western soft targets and provided instructions for carrying out such violence. Propaganda like this, whether disseminated through extremist online forums, or via social media, contributes to the radicalization of individuals and circles in Denmark. It is difficult to determine which message will inspire a violent extremist. 

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Copenhagen as being a LOW-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

The Kingdom of Denmark is a highly functional democracy and was ranked #1 in Transparency International’s Corrupt Perceptions Index for 2016. Denmark also enjoys high rankings on equality between genders as well as freedoms of religion, sexual orientation, and speech. The main human rights problem in Denmark concerns the treatment of irregular (or perceived irregular) migrants from outside Europe. Violent gang activity within immigrant communities is on the rise.

Civil Unrest

Political extremist circles in Denmark, both left- and right-wing, are prepared to use violence to promote their political agendas, but according to the CTA, “…this threat is limited.” Furthermore, “…there is an increased focus on the refugee situation among individuals with extreme right-wing sympathies…” and their aggression may be focused on “….asylum seekers, refugees, religious minorities and related authorities.” 

Public demonstrations are fairly common and sometimes result in violence. Typically, demonstrations number between a few dozen and a few hundred protestors and very rarely more than 1,000. Public demonstrations may be spontaneous. Police support is extremely well coordinated and appropriate to the size of the demonstration. Police are experienced, with effective riot control elements.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

Religious/ethnic violence is rare. There is an increased concern regarding potential violence from and toward refugee and migrant populations. The Danish Security and Intelligence Service states that, “…political extremist circles or extremist sympathizers may increase the threat to asylum centers, refugees and migrants as well as related authorities.” Like most of Europe, Denmark has a large population of migrants from around the world. Although the majority of migrants in Denmark come from European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) countries, the international refugee and humanitarian crisis of 2015 dramatically increased the asylum seeker population in Denmark. According to the Ministry of Immigration, asylum applications grew from 7,557 in 2013 to 21,316 in 2015. As a consequence of the ongoing refugee and migration crisis in Europe, temporary border controls have been instituted. As of January 4, 2016, travelers from Denmark to Sweden are subject to identification controls. In reaction to Sweden implementing border controls, Denmark instituted border controls with Germany to prevent asylum seekers and migrants from being stranded in Denmark.

Confrontations between outlaw motorcycle gangs and street gangs comprised of ethnic minorities occur. These events tend to be motivated by general criminality issues/turf wars, but the violence can be indiscriminate.

Post-Specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

The 2017 National Risk Overview, published by the Danish emergency response authority – Beredskabsstyrelsen – identified hurricanes, strong winds, flooding, extreme rain, and disease as the five biggest environmental hazards facing the country

Torrential rains may temporarily flood roads and basements. Significant flooding occurred in 2010 and 2011, resulting in damage to businesses and homes in/around Copenhagen.  

Other natural disasters, including mudslides/avalanches, occur with some frequency in Greenland.

Personal Identity Concerns

As in other European countries, anti-immigrant sentiments became more visible following the refugee and migration crisis, and there have been reports of harassment by individuals who do not appear ethnically Danish.

Drug-related Crimes

Denmark has seen an increase in drug-related arrests in 2017. As the only Nordic country with a land border with Western Europe, Denmark is an important transshipment point for all types of cargo, including illegal narcotics. Law enforcement continues to observe trafficking in hashish via the large volume of legitimate trucking through Denmark from the Netherlands, Germany, and Spain. Seizures of amphetamines, cocaine, and heroin are routinely made at the ferry crossings from Germany and during random checks on the bridge from Jutland or at the bridge to Sweden. A majority of the heroin destined for Sweden and Norway transits Denmark. The availability of heroin fluctuates based on the heroin production levels in Afghanistan.

The use of “date rape” drugs, including GHB, continues to be an increasing concern in Copenhagen. In 2017, there was at least a 30% increase in the number of cases handled by the poison hotlines at Bispebjerg and Frederiksberg hospitals over 2016. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad.”

Police Response

Danish law enforcement, public safety, and security services are professional, highly trained, well equipped, and effective. Denmark is well-known as a country with very little corruption, and the police are very well trained, professional, and competent. Most police officers are proficient in English. Response for non-violent crimes may be limited due to manpower shortages in the police force.

All individuals are required to provide their name, address, and date of birth to the police if asked, and if necessary, proof of their identity.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Individuals detained by the police should comply with instructions. If a visitor does have an issue with unlawful detention, corruption, bribery, or harassment, s/he should report it immediately to the Embassy and request assistance.

Crime Victim Assistance

The Danish National Police are very proactive and responsive when dealing with violent criminal activity but are selective about responding to non-violent crimes. Dial 112 for emergencies and life-threatening situations.

The American Citizen Services unit accepts appointments for routine services between 0900-1200 on weekdays, except Fridays. The Embassy is closed on American and Danish holidays. For emergency cases involving the death, arrest, or serious medical emergency of a U.S. citizen in Denmark, please contact us by telephone at (45) 33 41 71 00. All other inquires may be made only be email to CopenhagenACS@state.gov.

For local first responders, please refer to the Embassy’s Emergency Assistance page.

Police/Security Agencies

The Danish National Police are typically the primary law enforcement responder in the case of an emergency. The National Police are the primary law enforcement authority in Denmark, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands, and are under the direction of the Ministry of Justice. The National Police develop strategies, support work in the local police districts, and coordinate police operations on a national level.

Medical Emergencies

In the event of a non-life threatening injury, those in need of medical attention must telephone 1813 before going to the doctor/hospital. The dispatcher will provide instructions based on the trauma/injury and the location of the caller. No ER or acute services will be provided prior to calling 1813.  

For medical emergencies (a life threatening situation), which include the need for medevac, one should call 112. The dispatcher will provide instructions to the caller, identify the hospital best suited to meet the needs of the patient, and dispatch the required support. 

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

For medical assistance, please refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Denmark.

OSAC Country Council Information

The Country Council in Copenhagen is active, meeting twice per year. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Europe Team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

U.S. Embassy Copenhagen

Dag Hammarskjölds Allé 24

DK 2100 Copenhagen Ø

Operating Hours: 0830-1700

Embassy Contact Numbers

Main: +45 33 41 71 00

Post One: +45 33 41 74 00

Website: https://dk.usembassy.gov 

Consular coverage for multi-post countries

Denmark includes the mainland, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands.

Nearby Posts

Virtual Presence Post Nuuk: http://greenland.usvpp.gov.

Embassy Guidance

U.S. citizens traveling in Denmark are encouraged to register in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP is a free service that helps the U.S. Embassy disseminate information about safety conditions and contact travelers in an emergency.

If you are traveling between countries in Europe, please check the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your destination city for any recent Travel Advisories and Alerts.

Additional Resources                                                

Denmark Country Information Sheet