Here are Sweden's crime stats for 2016: analysis

Lee Roden
Lee Roden - [email protected]
Here are Sweden's crime stats for 2016: analysis
A file photo of Swedish police officers speaking with someone in Uppsala. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Preliminary figures for the number of crimes reported in Sweden during 2016 have been released, with reported instances of fraud and crimes against the individual up, and drugs crimes and theft down.


That’s according to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå), whose preliminary figures suggest that the overall number of crimes reported in Sweden during the last year was around 1.5 million, only a marginal (6,470) increase compared to 2015.

When broken down to specific categories, reported crimes against an individual increased by seven percent, rising to 275,000.

But a criminology expert has warned The Local that reaching conclusions by analyzing figures for reported crimes is a tricky business.

“Reported crimes are a lousy measure of the development of crimes. The number of crimes reported tends to be dependent on the discussion going on in the country,” University of Stockholm criminology professor Jerzy Sarnecki said.

“What criminologists do is to look at the 10-year, 20-year development. Then we can see the trends. Year to year, it’s impossible to judge why changes occur,” he added.

An example of a figure from Brå’s statistics which paints one picture in isolation but a different one with further context is that the number of rapes reported in Sweden increased by 13 percent in 2016 to 6,560.

But when that number is compared to 2014, where the number of reported rapes was 6,700, then a slight decrease can actually be seen. In other words, the number of reported rapes in Sweden dipped in 2015 (down by 12 percent to 5,920) then in 2016 it returned to around the same level as 2014.

Seen over a ten-year period, the number of reported rapes has gone up from 4,208 in 2006, partly because of legislative changes in the previous year and in 2013 broadening the definition, according to Brå.

According to Brå's figures, 10,500 incidents of sexual molestation were reported in the country in 2016 – a striking increase of 20 percent on 2015 (when 8,840 were reported).

But once again, 2015 was a year when reported sexual molestation had dropped significantly – it was down by eight percent that year compared to 2014, when 9,640 incidents were reported.

“The number of crimes reported can depend very much on the propensity to report,” Sarnecki noted.

“In 2016 for instance there was a lot of discussion about sexual assault and the relation between sexual assault and immigration. We know through research that those kind of years with more discussion of those subjects see the number of crimes reported increase.”

"The problem with explaining these figures is that very many variables not necessarily related to crime impact the figures. You have to be very careful, in particular if you look at changes on a year-to-year basis," he concluded.


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