Society must provide children and teens an alternative narrative to gangster rap


Crime can never be crushed, but society can and must offer young people in high risk areas a better alternative than what criminal networks tempt with, was one of several key messages when U-FOLD returned with a packed seminar in the Uppsala University main auditorium.

Chief of Police Jale Poljarevius
Chief of Police Jale Poljarevius wants a broad societal mobilisation and legal reforms

Criminal networks and clans have approximately 700 members in our region alone. Almost half of them are under the age of 18 and every tenth has not even turned 15. These are young people who are acting as useful idiots and take risks. Around them are children aged 7 to 12 who form the gang's future recruitment base,” reported Jale Poljarevius, Chief of Police and Chief of Intelligence at Police Region Mitt, at U-FOLD's seminar Gang Crime, Addiction & Belief in the Future.

Jale Poljarevius developed his reasoning by highlighting the risks of uncritically praising - and in some cases awarding - the narratives built by criminal gangs to attract younger members. Through music and videos, they present an image of brotherhood, success and unlimited resources. This glorified surface is the result of a conscious strategy, but reality, Jale Poljarevius pointed out, is completely different.

"gangster rap is often 110 percent a lie"
"gangster rap is often 110 percent a lie"

“No such brotherhood exists. They shoot each other and sometimes aim so poorly that completely innocent people, even children, are injured or killed. As we continue to decode their communication channels, the stress within the criminal gangs increases. Their leaders are prosecuted, earnings diminish and when newcomers want to climb the hierarchies, internal conflicts arise. So what our children and young people hear, see and are attracted to in the gangster rap is often 110 percent a lie.

Promises to "crush crime" is dismissed by Jale Poljarevius as empty rhetoric. Crime has always existed and will never stop. He prefers to talk about broad societal mobilisation and the need for legal reforms, increased resources to enable individuals to leave their criminal lives and, not least, targeted work to restore trust in authorities.

U-FOLD returned with a packed auditorium
U-FOLD returned with a packed auditorium

With Tuesday’s seminar, U-FOLD returned to the Uppsala University main auditorium after 18 months online, and it was a long-awaited return. All 600 seats were taken by researchers, professionals, politicians and students from the entire Mid-Sweden region and the enthusiasm was obvious: "U-FOLD is undoubtedly the best in our country in arranging meeting places for dialogue on addiction issues", stated former Minister of Social Affairs Gabriel Romanus who took the opportunity to congratulate Uppsala to its 10-year celebrating forum.

“Today's meeting offers a retrospective glance at everything U-FOLD has done,” says Fred Nyberg, Senior advisor at U-FOLD. “But above all we are here to point out the direction for our second decade. The paths to addiction are becoming increasingly complex, and we face a number of challenges that require well-established bridges within society. Next, we will, among other things, devote energy to mapping and preventing the risks – such as exclusion, drugs and mental illness – that can arise from the rapid densification of our urban environments.”

Ing-Marie Wieselgren, psychiatry coordinator at Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, agreed that society must be designed to better match people's abilities. In the ongoing national gathering of forces for mental health, sustainable housing construction, effective integration and well-functioning workplaces are listed as central building blocks.

“It can be tough to be a human. Thus, we must equip each person with lifelong resilience. This requires everything from early intervention to the opportunity to earn a living. And if we are to offer everyone a good life, individuals and society must work together. So lower the thresholds: work out physically, nurse your close relationships, do not believe in everything you think – and when we really need it, healthcare shall of course offer accessible, strong and smart safety nets.”

Dean Mathias Hallberg and students
Dean Mathias Hallberg and High school students

The concluding panel discussion “The Way Forward” was joined by politicians from the municipality, region and parliament, and quite soon a consensus emerged across party lines: Security must be created already in the early years. Children and teens must perceive education as more attractive than the future offered by criminal environments. Thus, social services, family support and school need to work closer to each other and rapid, compensatory efforts must be provided as soon as need arises.

“Tuesday's seminar conveyed both current knowledge and an overview of ongoing initiatives, but also constituted the starting point for talks that will hopefully stimulate new collaborations. Above all, the fantastic commitment that characterises the U-FOLD network was illuminated, and I am convinced that many of us left the auditorium with renewed inspiration to take our joint work to the next level, states Mathias Hallberg, chair of U-FOLD and Dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy.

The Faculty of Pharmacy informed about their educations
The Faculty of Pharmacy programmes and courses aroused great interest


  • Is Uppsala University's Forum for research on drug addiction.
  • Was inaugurated in Uppsala in 2011 as a regional gathering of forces against the challenges of addiction.
  • Gathers twenty regional organisations that work together for a better society.



Mathias Hallberg, chair, U-FOLD
Phone  018–471 41 41

Fred Nyberg, senior advisor, U-FOLD
Phone  018–471 41 66

text: Magnus Alsne, foto: Stewen Quigley, Mikael Wallerstedt

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Last modified: 2024-04-04