Sweden promises better protection for police after string of attacks

The Swedish government wants to better protect the country's police officers, with Justice Minister Morgan Johansson outlining plans to crack down further on gang crime.

Sweden promises better protection for police after string of attacks
Police stand outside an officer's home which was shot on Saturday. Photo: TT

His statements come in the wake of several attacks on police stations and officers' homes.

On Saturday, a man was arrested for attempted murder in Västerås after firing at least 12 shots at a police officer’s home, and on the same night a police station in Växjö, southern Sweden was attacked with fireworks and cobblestones.

Earlier this month, a police station in the southern Swedish city of Helsingborg was badly damaged by a powerful explosion, and in August, a man stabbed a police officer in an unprovoked attack in the centre of Stockholm. Several of these attacks are thought to be linked to local gangs.

Politicians have condemned the attack in Västerås, with the biggest opposition party, the Moderates, calling for harsher penalties and tougher gun laws.

“It is extremely important that we show how seriously we take this gang crime,” the Moderates' legal spokesman Tomas Tobé, who is also chairman of the Justice Committee, told the TT news agency. “The police also need to get more support than they have today. We need to get political changes that show that we are standing up for Swedish police.”

The Swedish Police Union has also raised concerns over the rise of violence, and noted that it could lead to people leaving the profession. A survey carried out by the union showed that 70 percent of police officers believe vulnerability has increased over the past two years.

An investigation known as Blue Light is currently underway to examine the possibility of giving police increased compensation for offences at work. “We're working with the directive of the investigation and it will come in a few weeks,” Justice Minister Morgan Johansson told Dagens Nyheter.

Johansson said the government had already increased punishments for around 30 crimes, including harsher threats for threats made with allusion to gang membership, and violence and drugs offences.

In addition, the penalty for serious firearms offences will be increased on January 1st next year, making it possible to detain suspects, as well as to carry out wire-tapping.



Sweden breaks yearly record for fatal shootings

A man was shot to death in Kristianstad, Skåne, late on Thursday night. He is the 48th person to be shot dead in Sweden this year, meaning that the previous record for most fatal shootings in one year set in 2020 has now been broken.

Sweden breaks yearly record for fatal shootings

“Unfortunately we can’t say more than that he’s in his twenties and we have no current suspects,” duty officer Mikael Lind told TT newswire.

According to police statistics, this most recent deadly shooting means that 48 people have been shot to death in 2022, meaning that Sweden has broken a new record for deadly shootings per year.

Earlier this week, Sweden’s police chief Anders Thornberg said that this number is likely to rise even higher before the end of the year.

“It looks like we’re going to break the record this year,” he told TT on Tuesday. “That means – if it continues at the same pace – around 60 deadly shootings.”

“If it ends up being such a large increase that would be very unusual,” said Manne Gerell, criminiologist at Malmö University.

“We saw a large increase between 2017 and 2018, and we could see the same now, as we’re on such low figures in Sweden. But it’s still worrying that it’s increasing by so much over such a short time period,” he said.

There also seems to be an upwards trend in the number of shootings overall during 2022. 273 shootings had occured by September 1st this year, compared with 344 for the whole of 2021 and 379 for the whole of 2020.

If shootings continue at this rate for the rest of 2022, it is likely that the total number for the year would be higher than 2021 and 2020. There are, however, fewer injuries.

“The majority of shootings cause no injuries, but this year, mortality has increased substantially,” Gerell explained. “There aren’t more people being shot, but when someone is shot, they’re more likely to die.”

Thursday’s shooting took place in Kristianstad, but it’s only partially true that deadly gun violence is becoming more common in smaller cities.

“It’s moved out somewhat to smaller cities, but we’re overexaggerating that effect,” Gerell said. “We’re forgetting that there have been shootings in other small cities in previous years.”

A report from the Crime Prevention Council (Brå) presented last spring showed that Sweden, when compared with 22 different countries in Europe, was the only one with an upwards trend for deadly shootings.

Temporary increases can be seen during some years in a few countries, but there were no countries which showed such a clear increase as Sweden has seen for multiple years in a row, according to Brå.

The Swedish upwards trend for deadly gun violence began in the beginning of the 2000s, but the trend took off in 2013 and has continued to increase since.

Eight of ten deadly shootings take place in criminal environments, the study showed. The Swedish increase has taken place in principle only among the 20-29 year old age group.

When police chief Anders Thornberg was asked how the trend can be broken, he said that new recruitments are one of the most important factors.

“The most important thing is to break recruitment, make sure we can listen encrypted and that we can get to the profits of crime in a better way,” he said.