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Dramatic drug raid at Stockholm school 'failed'

Dramatic drug raid at Stockholm school 'failed'

Published: 11 Jul 2012 17:40 GMT+02:00
Updated: 11 Jul 2012 17:40 GMT+02:00

Police have admitted that none of the more than a dozen Stockholm school students nabbed in a high-profile drug raid tested positive for drugs and no charges were filed, raising questions about the police's methods in the case.

Early in the morning of April 18th of this year, plain-clothes police officers fanned out across the city to knock on the doors of the homes of several students from the Åsö school, a grade 7-9 middle school located on Södermalm.

The startled students were taken down to the police station and interrogated about suspicions they had been using and selling marijuana on school grounds.

"They pulled me out of bed while I was still sleeping," one 16-year-old student told the Aftonbladet newspaper at the time.

But despite the large-scale operation, police failed to find any drugs or yield enough evidence to file any formal charges against the 14- to 16-year-old students.

Nor did any of the students questioned in the raid test positive for having used cannabis.

"A couple admitted to having smoked and two of them to having sold it, but since neither of them tested positive, their testimonies were not enough to prosecute them,” Patrick Widell of the youth crimes division at the Stockholm County Police and head of the investigation, told The Local.

"The case in now closed."

Widell explained that prior to the raid, officials and teachers from Åsö school had informed police about suspicions that two adults were selling cannabis to students at the school, and that several of the students were smoking the drug.

Police also learned from the school that several of the students had tested positive for marijuana after being taken by their parents to Maria Ungdom, a Stockholm clinic that deals with substance abuse issues among young people.

Following the tip, the police carried out the raid in coordination with the school and social services.

The raid generated a flurry of media coverage across Sweden, with some outlets reporting that as many as forty students had been taken in by the police and subjected to drug tests for possession of marijuana.

However, much of the reporting turned out to be exaggerated.

According to Widell, around ten students were questioned as a part of the initial operation, with a few more being brought in for questioning afterward.

Ultimately, four people – two of whom were adults – were suspected for selling drugs.

“The students who were brought in at first were not suspected for smoking marijuana. But when we spoke to them and investigated their text messages on their mobile phones it was confirmed that they had [smoked cannabis],” said Widell.

According to a July 2012 report from the Swedish Council for Information on Alcohol and Other Drugs (CAN), marijuana was the most commonly used drug among ninth graders in Sweden in 2011.

The CAN statistics reveal that around six percent of Swedish ninth graders smoked marijuana last year, an increase of one percent since 2000.

However, the percentage of teenagers in Sweden who say they have at some point used drugs has decreased by about half 1971, according to CAN’s statistics.

Considering that drug use among Sweden's young people on the decline and that none of the students singled out in the Åsö school raid tested positive for marijuana, some have questioned the police's methods in the crackdown.

"It doesn’t sound like the police have been very effective in this case,” Karin Svanberg, section head at Sweden's National Council on Crime Prevention (Brottsförebyggande rådet – Brå) told The Local of the raid.

"The best way to deal with this problem is to give kids proper schooling and fill their free time with constructive activities."

She added, however, that while drug raids at schools aren't that common in Sweden, police certainly should "take action" to combat suspected drug use.

But Svanberg was hesitant to categorize the raid as a "preventive action", which is exactly how Widell of the police referred to it in justifying the action despite the fact that none of the students singled out in the raid tested positive for cannabis use.

“This action should be viewed as an effort to prevent the students from committing crimes when they’re older and, seen this way, our action was successful,” Widell said.

Despite concerns that school officials may have violated students' privacy in connection with the operation, the Child and School Student Representative (Barn- och elevombudet, BEO) at the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) said both police and the school acted appropriately.

“If the police suspect that students have committed a crime, they may do whatever they like according to governing legislation," BEO spokesperson Carina Larsson told The Local.

"The students may have felt that the police may have violated their privacy, but we haven’t received any complaints from the students.”

Widell of the police also had a theory as to why none of the students tested positive for marijuana.

"Kids at this age don’t inhale the smoke properly. That’s one explanation why they didn’t test positive,” he said.

Widell also explained that any of the students that tested positive at Maria Ungdom may have become scared and stopped using marijuana or been more careful and thus passed the drug tests administered by police in connection with the raid.

Stefen Sparring, a specialist and section head at Maria Ungdom, emphasized that at no point did the clinic give police any information about visits by students.

“We never cooperated with the police or gave them any type of information about who they should bring in,” Sparring told The Local.

He also disputed Widell's theory about that kids don't know how to smoke marijuana properly.

“If you smoke you smoke to get high and then you inhale,” said Sparring.

According to Sparring, the raid must be seen in the context of what he described as Sweden's "no-tolerance" approach to marijuana use.

“We could discuss if the police’s methods were appropriate, but considering the stated intentions, I think the raid was a good way to show the kids that selling or using drugs is not acceptable,” he said.

“If you compare us to England, where they go about things differently and don’t do anything in order to protect people's privacy, we could be seen as barbarians."

Sparring argued that, compared to Sweden and many other countries in the EU, England has a high number of drug users, adding that he supports Sweden's hard line approach.

"The police’s raid should be seen as sending a clear message out to young people that smoking and selling drugs is a crime," he said.

Salomon Rogberg

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Your comments about this article

21:10 July 11, 2012 by smilingjack
sounds like Hillary gave them clear direction on their drug policy. thats OK kiddies. Go out and buy a bottle of vodka and drink yourself stupid and end up in emergency. alternatively smoke pot and fight the charges and clog the courts up and waste the dumb coppers time until they get the picture. a mass smoke in should really get them wetting their pants.

there are more people in jail in the USA for marijuana offences then for ALL violent offences. The violent offences are on the rise and they have spent $15 billion a year only on the war on drugs. The more alcohol you buy instead of pot the more money goes into your "democratic" governments pockets which they can spend on weapons from the USA.
21:34 July 11, 2012 by canuk
what the 'f' is up with the 'news' reporting on 'the local' and how they 'like' to put 'quotes' around just 'one' word in 'every' headline.
21:56 July 11, 2012 by olga118
@smilingjack.

"there are more people in jail in the USA for marijuana offences then for ALL violent offences."

Could you refer me to where you got this info. This is the 2nd time in 2 weeks I have seen someone write that on the internet but nobody has given a source. Could you let me know the source, please?
22:05 July 11, 2012 by Spuds MacKenzie
Typical Swedish b.s.! Go after harmless pot smokers, but pay no mind to all the embarrassing drunks in this country.
23:03 July 11, 2012 by Amadeus8888
This just shows you that the cops have too much money and too much power. How pathetic and shameful, Sweden. Police terrorizing 15 year olds over an unapproved plant? Are there so few real crimes that this is all there is for you to do? In that case it is probably time to reduce the work force.
23:49 July 11, 2012 by eltechno
If Sweden really were a rational society like it claims to be, they would consider pot a health food. Alcoholism is rampant in Sweden. If the Swedes could get 1/2 of their drunks to switch their recreational drug to pot, it would save the society millions. The public health guys could give away as much pot to folks who stopped drinking as they could ever hope to consume, and still come out ahead. Violent crime would be cut dramatically and so would domestic abuse. Economic productivity would soar—pot smokers are MUCH harder workers than boozers—especially those who smoke the I-want-to-tile-my-kichen varieties.

But NOOOOO! Pot has this baleful side effect—it makes people feel good. And so the secular pietists (who in days gone by were hellfire and brimstone Black Lutheran Clergymen) cannot possibly countenance something that reduces existential pain no matter how many side benefits. And so we see good Swedish police practice gestapo tactics on children because they might have been—gasp—smoking pot.

Screw the pietists—Sweden needs to rethink its drug laws.
06:56 July 12, 2012 by robban70226
only way to describe this is... pure inconpetence...
08:20 July 12, 2012 by leontan
One might think that taxpayer dollars are better spent on serious gun crimes and cleaning out the many criminal gangs in Sweden... than on terrorizing school children... Ah, Sweden!
08:56 July 12, 2012 by EmployedProfessional
"This action should be viewed as an effort to prevent the students from committing crimes when they're older and, seen this way, our action was successful," Widell said.

Really?

Seriously?

Did he really say this to the press after taking advantage of young,legaly volnerable school kids and coming up with nothing?

This should be considered a serious crime and a wake up call for the country.

Harassement is never an appropriate deterrant in a civil society!
09:24 July 12, 2012 by Swedishmyth
Sweden has two categories of drugs, one containing ethanol, caffeine, and nicotine, and the other containing the rest. Cannabis might as well be heroin or crack according to the Swedish government's prescribed narrative of reality.

This, along with America's "War On Drugs", is akin to a religious crusade based on nothing but power lust and the premise that government should engage in social engineering.
13:09 July 12, 2012 by enjoynature
I have been in Sweden several times and this article must be fake. There is no way Swedish police would do something like that to innocent people. It would be so against the general Swedish mentality and way of thinking.

Drug use is in my experience limited in Sweden compared to other countries but to say that the police is arresting bulks of innocent teens and forcing them to go through tests etc. is just redicilous.

The Local should check their sources better, this is just too 'good' to be true. There is no way a country like Sweden would treat their citizens this way. It is just REDICILOUS to imagine and it hurts the reputation of that beautiful country.

"We could discuss if the police's methods were appropriate, but considering the stated intentions, I think the raid was a good way to show the kids that selling or using drugs is not acceptable," - seriously, do you really believe an official would make that statement? He would get fired immediately..
13:11 July 12, 2012 by LordSqueak
"This action should be viewed as an effort to prevent the students from committing crimes when they're older and, seen this way, our action was successful," Widell said.

Widell shouldn't mind if the Police came to his house in the morning, arresting him test him for drugs then. After all drugs must be prevented.

Or how would he feel if they came for his kids next time?
13:16 July 12, 2012 by olga118
It always amazes me to see people here spouting "facts" about the USA as if they actually know what they are talking about.
13:21 July 12, 2012 by ivey007
The 2 most dangerous drugs that take so many lives everyday are the ones that are legal. Tobacco and Alcohol are the biggest killers and yet governments are so concerned with a herb that does no harm at all. We are no longer are in charge of our own minds, its illegal to alter your own state of mind when you and how you choose. How free are we if we dont even have dominion over our own brains!!!

You cant tell me its ok for me to drink and smoke tobacco when it clearly isnt and can kill me. And then tell me I cant smoke weed even though no harm will come.

What are we idiots? Its all about money and power dictated by the worlds major pharmaceutical companies, it has nothing to do with any government caring about YOU, and people need to stop thinking any government out there makes these rules because they love you. You are here to consume and obey and hopefully not live long enough to claim any state pension.
13:23 July 12, 2012 by Loonyman
What "facts" do you take issue with Olga118? I have read nothing here that does not ring true...
13:29 July 12, 2012 by olga118
there are more people in jail in the USA for marijuana offences then for ALL violent offences.

That is simply untrue.
13:30 July 12, 2012 by enjoynature
Can someone from Sweden confirm that this is actually true??

I mean come on:

"The police's raid should be seen as sending a clear message out to young people that smoking and selling drugs is a crime,"

..nobody is stupid enough to say things like that
14:17 July 12, 2012 by EmployedProfessional
..nobody is stupid enough to say things like that

oh,you would be very surprised what elected and government officials say here!

closed brain-open mouth disease is an epidemic here.

And,what about the remark of the kids not understanding the proper smoking technique and testing negative for cannabis?

Hmmm...how do they know that?

Test these officials and fire them!

Don't forget to go after their kid's goodie bags!
14:49 July 12, 2012 by Borilla
Olga118 - read the yearly FBI crime statistics, check the blogs. Do you not understand or simply do not want to understand?

Stockholm police strike again. 14 year old students are less likely to shoot at you thatn real criminals, especially if the y haven't done anything wrong. Great work. So far we have hem unable to respond to a huge theft from a company specializing in "protecting" and transporting your money and, of course, shooting up the centrum when the miscreant didn't even have a gun. Great police work.

And no Local you don't get a pass for crappy reporting.
15:29 July 12, 2012 by olga118
Check the blogs? I don't think so. And I have checked the statistics. 51% of people in prison are incarcerated for DRUG related crimes. DRUG does NOT equal marijuana. I understand completely.
19:32 July 12, 2012 by SunshneBlind
#11, enjoynature: I'm from Sweden and this is not fake. Sweden is a rather interesting country when it comes to narcotics. I agree it may sound strange, but in this particular issue the "human rights" or "respect" from law enforcement has gone straight out the window. We recieve neither good information about drugs, or good treatment towards drug users. If a person under 18 is found with drugs the penalty is usually a hard one. The thought behind this is to make examples out of them to scare them and their peers to stay away from drugs.
10:58 July 13, 2012 by zooeden
The Local should change its name to The Local Amish Redneck News and with those terms any news would be quite favorable to the editors wouldnt you think???

Now if police come to my house and raid because of suspicion my son is selling pot or using does that mean Im living in Malaysia???

So if my son is not doing any of the above can I sue the police??? Imagine I live in a nice place and suddenly I got a swat team over my house making all the theater and all (cause police like to do that theater) just to find drugs???

Great succsess from the police for sure, just ask the Furer SS intimidation methods how preventive they were!!!
14:29 July 13, 2012 by enjoynature
Ok I just started reading about this now and apparently the drug situation in Sweden is just as messed up as described in the article it seems..

Damn, apparently you guys are completely nuts when it comes to certain things :) Congratulations!

You know these facebook memes that say "ONLY IN RUSSIA", well I know what they should say from now on :)
15:31 July 13, 2012 by Schonke
#3 The percentage of prisoners sentenced for violent crimes serving time in federal prisons is 7,8%

The percentage for drug offenses is 51,1%.

(http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=2230)

While the percentage of population serving time for drug related offenses in state prisons is a lot lower, the number of people convicted each year for drug offenses is higher than the number of people convicted for violent crimes.

25,8% of the violent crime prisoners are new convicts whereas 77,2% of the drug crime prisoners are new convicts.

(http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=2230)
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