A council of elder men seems to be the deciding factor on the Vollsmose Estate in Odense, where local people seek decisions on divorces, rivalries and debts.
“We can confirm that there is a Council of Elders. We have strong suspicions that they solve a number of criminal cases internally. But that is the culture here. It’s just difficult to prove when it all happens in secrecy. The Council has existed for several years,” says Vollsmose Local Police Leader Per Frank.
The Council of Elders has been accused of ignoring a suspected paedophile and not reporting him to the police. Instead, the council banished the suspect to Germany in 2008. He since returned to the area and was arrested on January 22, suspected of further abuse.
The Council of Elders is not elected but a result of the social hierarchy in Vollsmose. Its power stems from the fact that it is made up of the area’s oldest and most respected inhabitants.
“The Council of Elders works unofficially. It functions as a mediator in gang conflicts, divorces, fights and the suchlike. It’s good when they can help the police, but when they involve themselves in criminal cases, that’s too much for me,” says Asmaa Abdol Hamid of the Unity List, who lives in the area, in an interview with politiken.dk.
Local Vollsmose police have also used the Council of Elders on several occasions – particularly in connection with dialogue-based initiatives.
“We know of the Council of Elders and use them in various cases. But mostly in connection with dialogue where we use them through the Local Council to get a message out or stem prejudice. Here, they have an important role, but it is a problem when they act as an internal court,” says Frank.