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Danish police are falling behind in the fight against organized crime: A seven-year-old EU agreement bears significant responsibility.

DR-Politics in Politics

Thursday, May 30, 2024 • 4:05 AM UTC - in Politics

When Danish police officers encounter a suspicious person with a foreign background or a vehicle with foreign license plates and wish to investigate further, they lack a crucial tool.

Their colleagues in nearly 13 other EU countries can fish out a tablet or smartphone from a pocket and directly search Europol's extensive database to clarify whether the driver has committed crimes in other countries.

"When Europol takes on a more proactive role, the difference becomes even greater," says Lene Wacher Lentz, a lecturer.

If Danish officers want to be wiser about a driver's potential misdeeds outside Danish borders, they must call an office and have someone perform the search.

According to a new report from the Danish Police, this is "practically unmanageable," and officers often drop the call.

The figures in the report show a decline in searches in Europol's central information and intelligence database, EIS, conducted by Europol staff based in Denmark.

In 2021, Danish police searched the database 112,901 times via an office in Copenhagen, while last year they searched 78,033 times.

This occurs simultaneously with the total number of searches in the database experiencing explosive growth – from four million in 2018 to 13.3 million in 2022.


Researcher: Warning lights are flashing more brightly


Some of the consequences of the nearly seven-year-old agreement Denmark has with the EU on international police cooperation in Europol.

The agreement was negotiated on site, as Denmark left Europol as a fully valid member when Danes voted to abolish the legal privilege in 2015.

But the Danish-EU agreement challenges "increasingly" Danish police, writes the Danish Police in a new report.

Danish police have been continuously evaluating their relationship with Europol, and according to lecturer and police researcher David Sausdal, the red warning lights are flashing more brightly this time, and the police use more alarming language.

He has gone through the reports that have been made public since Denmark got the Europol agreement in the spring of 2017.


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- One of the major challenges with our Europol agreement is that it creates a slow system and a risk that a potential criminal suspect may escape, says David Sausdal.

Since Denmark's Europol agreement was signed, criminal development has only gone in one direction – namely towards becoming more border-crossing.

The police must increasingly handle cybercrime, terror, environmental crime, and economic crime – and to a lesser extent, petty crime, notes the lecturer.

- The things mentioned in the new police report about Europol concern the issue fundamentally. That Denmark has opted out of the good company, where there is the best possible data foundation for the best possible police action, says David Sausdal.


Europol has become stronger


The diminished possibilities for Danish police to investigate crime across borders frustrate Lene Wacher Lentz, who is a lecturer in criminal law at Aalborg University and a researcher in cybercrime and the police's digital investigation.

- The difference to the other countries with full membership in Europol was not that significant a few years ago, where Europol supported the member states' own initiatives to a greater extent.

- But now we see that Europol takes on a more active role. They initiate, coordinate, and execute. When Europol takes on a more proactive role, the difference becomes even greater, says she.

Specifically, IT crime is difficult for Danish police to investigate themselves because it is so border-crossing.

- It happens across borders to tie police powers together, and here it makes a difference to have direct access to tools and be a full member of Europol. We are outside the door and a little behind in development right now, says she.

Danish officers do not have the same tools as their colleagues in other EU countries. And the differences are growing, say researchers. (Photo: © Tim Kildeborg Jensen, Ritzau Scanpix)

But it's not just the Europol agreement that gives problems for Danish police. Other parts of Denmark's legal privilege are also beginning to create challenges, evaluates Lene Wacher Lentz.

As an example, she mentions the European investigative order as a very useful tool in investigating crime across national borders. But Danish police cannot use it.

It would otherwise allow for a Danish judicial order to be executed, for example, on IT servers in another EU country – without the court of that country having to intervene.

- They trust each other's courts. They enjoy the benefits of it, as they can issue a ruling, and then you can quickly move on with the investigation, says Lene Wacher Lentz.

The Danish Police do not wish to give an interview with DR about the lack of direct access to all databases in Europol. But in a written response, it sounds like:

- Europol is continuously developing new tools and initiatives to best support member states, which Danish police do not have or receive directly.

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