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Swedish police backtrack on 'ethnic' profiling

TT/Rebecca Martin · 29 Jun 2011, 13:14

Published: 29 Jun 2011 13:14 GMT+02:00

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"Criminals are criminals, their nationalities are a lesser matter," Mauro Gonzalez of the Federation of Chilean Associations in Sweden (Chilenska Riksförbundet) told The Local.

The letter sent out by police in Huddinge, a southern suburb of Stockholm, advised residents to be especially vigilant of “South Americans – in particular from Chile”, “Lithuanians” and “Romanians”, after a wave of burglaries in the area.

Many felt singled out due to the letter’s references to specific nationalities. One resident reported the letter to the Ombudsman for Justice (Justitieombudsmannen – JO).

“I got this in regards to a neighbourhood watch programme from the local police. I question if it is ok to point the finger at different nationalities this way,” the report read, according to news website nyheter24.

The Federation of Chilean Associations in Sweden (Chilenska Riksförbundet) have also publicly complained and asked for an apology from the police.

"We feel that it is wrong of the police to link criminal activities to specific nationalities," said Gonzalez.

Anna Schelin at the local police said to nyheter24 that it was the “unfortunate phrasing” of the letter which lay behind the stong reactions. She told the news site that she had received a call from a man who wanted to know why the letter had been sent out.

“I had to explain it to him and I think he understood better. The reason behind it is that a lot of burglaries have been committed in the area. There is nothing racist in calling someone a South American or Romanian,” Schelin told the news site.

The police think that the ombudsman will have to decide if sending out the letter was wrong or not, but they stress that they have not meant to offend anyone.

“We have had reactions from people who feel offended, so all we can do is apologize and try to explain that sometimes we need to give this kind of information and it is important it is not taken out of its context," said Hesam Akbari at the Stockholm police information department to Sveriges Radio (SR).

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Akbari added that the perpetrators in this case have come to Sweden solely for this purpose and are not Swedish residents.

According to Gonzalez, the federation understands that information has to be sent out to residents warning them of current criminal activity.

"But they could warn residents that the perpetrators are from countries other than Sweden, they don't have to link them to specific countries like they did in this case," Gonzalez told The Local.

TT/Rebecca Martin (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

13:47 June 29, 2011 by Coolbreeze
I bet if theOmbudsman for Justice (Justitieombudsmannen - JO) bothers to look into this matter or bothers to write a report, that report will basically say and mean, SO WHAT!

It is called institutional racism in all areas of our 'Myndigheter'
14:11 June 29, 2011 by PonceDeLeon
Ms. Schelin and the police in Huddinge clearly do not understand the definition of racism. Maybe they should take a class. A person in Ms. Schelin's position, might possibly develop some form of sensitivity toward people of "color". I understand they have a thankless job, however, polarizing a community is not a part of that job.
15:10 June 29, 2011 by Kaethar
""But they could warn residents that the perpetrators are from countries other than Sweden, they don't have to link them to specific countries like they did in this case," Gonzalez told The Local."

Eh? How would that be any better? So people avoid all foreigners (non-Swedish speakers) like the plague instead?

The assumption made by critics here is of course that all people stereotype. That if it's said Chileans are coming to Sweden to rob people Swedes will see all Chileans as robbers and I simply don't think that's true. What I do think is that people would be reluctant to get into cars alone with strange Chileans/go into backalleys with them, etc. Aka, what you should normally do to avoid being robbed. If people know when it's statistically good to put your guard up that's a good thing.

Let's say the police don't issue such a warning. Residents of Huddinge will soon notice that their friends and family are all being robbed by Chileans and will jump to conclusions and stereotype or put their guard up around Chileans anyway. The negative with this scenario is that people are much more likely to jump to the wrong conclusion (that all Chileans are robbers) because they don't know anything to the contrary. It's well-known that Chileans are one of the biggest immigrant group in Sweden and if those living in Huddinge know these Chilean robbers are fresh off the boat and part of criminal organizations this would do a lot do decrease prejudice against Swedish-Chileans since Sweden is hardly immune to native criminal organizations either.

Am I the only one who realises this?
17:22 June 29, 2011 by Jannik
The police warning is an expression of common sense.

The whole complaint about "stereotyping" is PC gone amok. If the government was far more strict in regards to who they let into the country, maybe these sorts of warnings based on facts, wouldnt be necessary.

But the multicultural crowd want open borders. When this results in a mass increase of crime, people are expected to deny reality; that foreigners of certain nationalities are commiting crime in far excess of the average Svenson.

PC is notning but denial of reality .
18:43 June 29, 2011 by Beavis
Most "organised crime" is in fact carried out by guess who, Swedes of Swedish origin! All they got to do is look in the prisons and see what the majority is there! Or even read a damn newspaper! The Swedish "mob" is made up of mailnyl white ethnic Swedes. The biker gangs are made up of the same. What they did is about as accurate as putting out a statement saying that people who wear white and black sneakers should be looked at as suspicious, as most robberies are carried out by people wearign these!
08:05 June 30, 2011 by axiom
"There is nothing racist in calling someone a South American or Romanian," --- I think she missed the point. I don't think she even realises why the statement is being criticized or considered racist.
08:37 June 30, 2011 by Rick Methven
A couple of years back, we had a spate of burglaries in our area and our neighbour was a victim. The Police came to ask me if I had seen anything as it happened in broad daylight in the winter and footprints could be seen in the snow. I asked them if they had checked up on the Latvian registered car that had been seen driving around our neighbourhood, to which they replied, "No comment, we do not accuse any foreigners of these crimes YET" then she asked me where I was from!
10:17 June 30, 2011 by J. L. Belmar
The letter sent out by police in Huddinge, a southern suburb of Stockholm, advised residents to be especially vigilant of "South Americans - in particular from Chile", "Lithuanians" and "Romanians", after a wave of burglaries in the area.

In my country, once upon a time the General Attourney from the State of Mexico was asked during a TV Interview the following:

"Mr. Colín: what woud you do if in Mexico City you are assaulted by a bunch of gangsters and a police patrol is in the neighbourhood?

Colin answered inmediately:

"I would request protection from the gangsters".

That says all. Police is Police and no matter where.
16:39 July 1, 2011 by Icarusty
Race wars!
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