Hate crime declines in Sweden: report

The number of hate crimes committed in Sweden decreased in 2010 compared to the year before, according to statistics from Sweden’s National Council of Crime Prevention (Brottsförebygganderådet - BRÅ).

Hate crime declines in Sweden: report

“We have been saying for several years that here has been a decrease. It is a bit sensitive because public opinion is of the impression that hate crimes are on the up,” said police officer Mikael Ekman, one of the founders of the hate crimes unit at Stockholm police to news agency TT.

In 2010 there were 5,140 confirmed hate crimes, compared to 5,800 in 2009 and 5,900 in 2008.

However, within these figures, the share of islamophobic hate crimes increased with 40 percent while anti-Semitic and homophobic hate crimes went down.

“The increase in islamophobic hate crimes could partly be explained by a series incidents in Skåne County that generated a large amount of reports,” said Klara Klingspor of the council in a statement

Assault and harassment were the most common types of crimes reported in 2010 and the most common motive was xenophobia or racism.

Although Ekman fears that there are probably large numbers of unreported cases that don’t make the statistics, he says that police see a noticeable decline in hate crimes.

“Hopefully this means that something is getting better in society. Hate crimes work like a thermometer, an increase indicates societal disquiet in general. You get more intolerant if you feel badly treated yourself,” Ekman told TT.

Few reports lead to prosecution and Mikael Ekman thinks that the Swedish judicial system lacks knowledge of that type of crime.

“Police have got much better at this but the prosecutors and courts haven’t kept up with the development,” he said to TT.

According to Ekman it is ignorance that is behind it. Hate crimes are more complicated and require more work and deeper investigations.

“More questions need asking by both the police, the prosecutors and by the courts. And they need to be the right questions,“ he said.

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Calls for special police tactics to be available across Sweden

The chairwoman of the Police Association West Region has said that police special tactics, known as Särskild polistaktik or SPT, should be available across Sweden, to use in demonstrations similar to those during the Easter weekend.

Calls for special police tactics to be available across Sweden

SPT, (Särskild polistaktik), is a tactic where the police work with communication rather than physical measures to reduce the risk of conflicts during events like demonstrations.

Tactics include knowledge about how social movements function and how crowds act, as well as understanding how individuals and groups act in a given situation. Police may attempt to engage in collaboration and trust building, which they are specially trained to do.

Katharina von Sydow, chairwoman of the Police Association West Region, told Swedish Radio P4 West that the concept should exist throughout the country.

“We have nothing to defend ourselves within 10 to 15 metres. We need tools to stop this type of violent riot without doing too much damage,” she said.

SPT is used in the West region, the South region and in Stockholm, which doesn’t cover all the places where the Easter weekend riots took place.

In the wake of the riots, police unions and the police’s chief safety representative had a meeting with the National Police Chief, Anders Tornberg, and demanded an evaluation of the police’s work. Katharina von Sydow now hopes that the tactics will be introduced everywhere.

“This concept must exist throughout the country”, she said.

During the Easter weekend around 200 people were involved in riots after a planned demonstration by anti-Muslim Danish politician Rasmus Paludan and his party Stram Kurs (Hard Line), that included the burning of the Muslim holy book, the Koran.

Police revealed on Friday that at least 104 officers were injured in counter-demonstrations that they say were hijacked by criminal gangs intent on targeting the police. 

Forty people were arrested and police are continuing to investigate the violent riots for which they admitted they were unprepared. 

Paludan’s application for another demonstration this weekend was rejected by police.

In Norway on Saturday, police used tear gas against several people during a Koran-burning demonstration after hundreds of counter-demonstrators clashed with police in the town of Sandefjord.