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Camouflaged police ward off Stockholm burglars

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Camouflaged police ward off Stockholm burglars
16:11 CEST+02:00
Burglary season has begun in Sweden, yet Stockholm Police have decided to play dress-up to beat bands of thieves at their own game.

Crime statistics show the number of break-ins rise in the last three months of the year. The Crime Prevention Agency (Brottsförebyggande rådet - Brå) says evenings growing longer and darker are to blame, with November the worst month.

The insurers Folksam estimate that the risk of flat owners to be targeted by burglars goes up by 20 percent in the autumn and early winter. Some 70 percent of burglaries take place in ground-floor apartments. The statistics showed that people who live on the ground floor run four times the risk of being burgled than their neighbours just one floor up.

Yet in Stockholm, county police have decided to tackle break-ins by placing 36 officers on the ground. While some are simply dressed as civilians, some have donned work uniforms and pretended to be workmen to keep an eye on would-be thieves. While organized bands of burglars often hail from Sweden, many come from as far afield as Eastern Europe and South America.

So far, the 36 officers have arrested 172 suspects since the police launched the pilot scheme in March.

"We've made it very difficult for thieves to break-in. They know we are keeping an eye on them," unit head Fredrik Gårdare told DirektPress news.

One day in mid-September, there were no burglaries reported to the police anywhere in Stockholm County.

"Of course it's happy news that there was not a single break-in in the country's biggest county over the course of 24 hours, but if it's due to our work I couldn't say," Gårdare said.

There were more than 21,000 reported burglaries in Sweden last year, with Stockholm, Skåne and Hallands county the most affected when counted per capita. The burglary rate has increased by 20 percent in the past decade, but Brå noted that break-in rates fluctuate wildly.

The Folksam review of statistics showed most thieves looked for gold and jewellery once inside peoples' homes, but weren't averse to carrying off lighter electronic goods like laptops or mobile phones.

Three in four burglaries are reported to the police - a high report rate explained by the need for insurers to have proof of a crime before issuing compensation - yet only 4 percent of reported cases lead to conviction.

"Thefts of heavier electronic equipment like TVs, speakers or stereos are unusual," Folksam noted.

While the Stockholm police's anti-burglary pilot scheme draws to a close at the end of the year, the unit head hoped the initiative would be renewed in the new year.

"Burglaries are an incredible violation of a person's integrity," he told DirektPress. "As our operation has been so successful, I of course hope we will continue."

TT/The Local/at

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