“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.