Police to prioritise ‘everyday crime’

'Everyday' crime - non-violent crime such as house burglary and car theft - is falling in Sweden, but so is the police's ability to catch the perpetrators.

Car theft has fallen 25% since 2000, while thefts of items from cars has fallen by 15% in the same period. Burglary has also fallen steadily since 1997.

This sort of non-violent crime has long been the bane of the Swedish police, with arrests made in just a few percent of cases.

The National Police Board recently instructed local police authorities to toughen their stance and prioritise everyday crimes. By 2007, the Board says, the number of criminals charged in the category should be double the level of 2004.

But after the first six months, things are not going to plan, with little evidence of positive trends, said Anders Tegsten at the National Police Board.

A key reason, he believes, is the increase in violent crime over the last twelve months which has taken up resources. In total, the reports of physical attacks increased 21% between 2000 and 2004. The figures for reports of rape have climbed just as dramatically.

“In some months the priorities and resources have shifted and everyday crime does not have the same attention,” said Tegsten.

The clear-up rate for everyday crime is declined over the last ten years. Factors such as prosecutors’ willingness to press charges for fewer crimes per criminal, despite the fact that they may be suspected of more, appear to be contributing to the fall.

However, from the beginning of the year a new law comes into force which is expected to dramatically improve the police’s chances of solving more cases using DNA samples.

Anyone held on reasonable suspicion of a crime will be required to provide a sample of their DNA, a move which Olof Egerstedt, head of the National Criminal Technical Laboratory, has called “a milestone in Swedish crime-fighting history”.

“There are great opportunities, but there is a lot which needs to work in the police organisation for the law to have any significance,” said Anders Tegsten.

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TT/The Local