Sweden’s new lethal violence stats for 2016 analyzed

The rate of lethal violence in Sweden remained at a consistent level in 2016 compared to the previous decade, but a high level in 2017 would mark the start of a change in trend.

Sweden's new lethal violence stats for 2016 analyzed
File photo of a Swedish Police cordon. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

That's according to Sweden's National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå), who have just released their final figures for lethal violence in the country during 2016. The numbers show that there were 106 cases of lethal violence in the Nordic nation last year, a slight decrease compared to the 112 in 2015.

In 2013 and 2014 meanwhile there were 87 instances, but if the average for the last five years is calculated then it lies at 92 cases of lethal violence per year – the same as the level has been since 2002.

“There's no big difference between last year and the previous 10 year period in general. You can say that it's consistent,” Brå’s lethal violence statistician and analyst Nina Forselius told The Local.

“The last two years were at a slightly higher level, but it's still too early to say there's a change in trend, because if you look at the last five years it averages out at 92, and the average has been 92 since 2002. It has been steady. If there was a high level over the next year, then we could start to see a slightly higher average, but for now we can't say that there's any change in direction.”

READ ALSO: Analysis of Sweden's crime stats for 2016

Seen over a longer period of time, the level of lethal violence in Sweden is lower than it was in the 1990s, where the average was 100 instances per year, before dropping to the region of 92 in the 2000s.

“If you look from 2000 until now, we're actually about a tenth lower than during the 1990s,” Forselius observed.

Graph charting the lethal violence trend in Sweden since 2002. The dark line shows the total, the lightest line shows cases where a woman was the victim, and the medium-tone line cases where it was a man. Photo: Brå

Shootings in particular have made headlines in Sweden recently, with high profile cases occurring in the country's major cities during 2016, but Brå's stats show that the level of lethal shootings remained around the same as the average for the last five years.

Shootings accounted for 28 percent of instances of lethal violence in Sweden in 2016, down marginally from 29 percent in 2015 as well as the overall average for the last five years of 29 percent.

“That particular kind of crime is reported about a lot in the media, which means that you can end up with the perception of it happening very often if for example the same instance is reported about several times. And when these kind of crimes happen they're pushed quite hard, so there's a connection there,” Forselius explained.

The proportion of lethal violence shootings account for in Sweden since 2012 (29 percent) is however higher than it was during the 1990s, when they made up 20 percent.

Brå defines lethal violence as murder, manslaughter, infanticide and assault with the outcome of death, but does not include instances deemed to be self-defence.


Swedish Green leader: ‘Easter riots nothing to do with religion or ethnicity’

The riots that rocked Swedish cities over the Easter holidays were nothing to do with religion or ethnicity, but instead come down to class, the joint leader of Sweden's Green Party has told The Local in an interview.

Swedish Green leader: 'Easter riots nothing to do with religion or ethnicity'

Ahead of a visit to the school in Rosengård that was damaged in the rioting, Märta Stenevi said that neither the Danish extremist Rasmus Paludan, who provoked the riots by burning copies of the Koran, nor those who rioted, injuring 104 policemen, were ultimately motivated by religion. 

“His demonstration had nothing to do with religion or with Islam. It has everything to do with being a right extremist and trying to to raise a lot of conflict between groups in Sweden,” she said of Paludan’s protests. 

“On the other side, the police have now stated that there were a lot of connections to organised crime and gangs, who see this as an opportunity to raise hell within their communities.”

Riots broke out in the Swedish cities of Malmö, Stockholm, Norrköping, Linköping and Landskrona over the Easter holidays as a result of Paludan’s tour of the cities, which saw him burn multiple copies of the Koran, the holy book of Islam. 


More than 100 police officers were injured in the riots, sparking debates about hate-crime legislation and about law and order. 

According to Stenevi, the real cause of the disorder is the way inequality has increased in Sweden in recent decades. 

“If you have big chasms between the rich people and poor people in a country, you will also have a social upheaval and social disturbance. This is well-documented all across the world,” she says. 
“What we have done for the past three decades in Sweden is to create a wider and wider gap between those who have a lot and those who have nothing.” 

The worst way of reacting to the riots, she argues, is that of Sweden’s right-wing parties. 
“You cannot do it by punishment, by adding to the sense of outsider status, you have to start working on actually including people, and that happens through old-fashioned things such as education, and a proper minimum income, to lift people out of their poverty, not to keep them there.”

This, she says, is “ridiculous”, when the long-term solution lies in doing what Sweden did to end extreme inequality at the start of the 20th century, when it created the socialist folkhem, or “people’s home”. 

“It’s easy to forget that 100 to 150 years ago, Sweden was a developing country, with a huge class of poor people with no education whatsoever. And we did this huge lift of a whole nation. And we can do this again,” she says. “But it needs resources, it needs political will.”