A growing number of Swedes are victims of crime: survey

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards - [email protected]
A growing number of Swedes are victims of crime: survey
File photo of a Swedish police officer. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

A growing number of Swedes are victims of crime, according to the Swedish Crime Survey published by the country's National Council on Crime Prevention (Brå) on Wednesday.


The proportion of the population who have been victims of what is classed as 'crime against an individual' – assault, threats, mugging, fraud, harassment, or sexual assault – is at its highest level since records began in 2006. The report is based on survey answers, not on reports to the police.

In total, more than 15 percent of people surveyed said they had been a victim of at least one such crime in 2016, a figure which was up from 13.3 percent the previous year.

"What really stands out is that this is such a broad increase, affecting almost all types of crime," criminology researcher Manne Gerell told The Local. "I think this rise is worrying; it's something that deserves a lot of attention. We've had declining or at least stable rates of victimization over the past ten years at least in Sweden, and now it looks like the trend has shifted to an increase in crime."

All kinds of crime against the individual saw a rise in reports, but the most significant increases were reported in fraud, sexual crimes, and harassment. Between 2012 and 2016, the victimization rate for fraud rose from 3.0 to 4.3 percent, while for crimes of harassment this figure rose from 4.1 to 5.5 percent, and for sexual offences from 0.8 to 2.4 percent.

"Just like last year, we see a continued increase of harassment, fraud, and sexual offences. These results raise a number of questions about why so many more people are reporting that they have experienced sexual offences," Åsa Strid from Brå told The Local.

Over the past year alone, the proportion of Swedes who were victims of sexual offences rose sharply from 1.7 percent in 2015 to 2.4 percent, equivalent to 181,000 people. Looking at women alone, 4.1 percent said they had suffered sexual offences, with 16-24-year-olds the worst affected age group. 

In this survey, sexual offences covered a wide range of crimes from exhibitionism to assault.

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As for the reasons behind the increase, more research is needed.

"One possible reason is the problems facing the Swedish police at the moment. They feel like they lack the resources to do their job properly, and they struggle to investigate homicides and shootings, so there's even less time to spend on things like burglaries and other more common crimes," explained Gerell.

"So that's one plausible explanation, but this can't explain the whole change. There's likely something else but I wouldn't know what that is. We'll need to know much more in order to direct our resources, for example is the rise affecting some particular places, certain types of crime, or certain types of victims or offenders?"

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According to Brå, the vast majority of sexual assaults are not reported to police in Sweden, with only 11 percent of victims choosing to file a police report. Across all kinds of crime against the individual, less than half of victims reported the incident to police.

This is for several reasons; for example, with crimes such as car thefts or burglaries, police reports are more common as they are usually necessary for insurance crimes.

"The most common reason for not reporting crime is that the person affected doesn't believe the police can do anything. It can also be that they don't judge the incident as serious enough," explained Strid. "In the case of sexual offences, one can also imagine that it depends on whether it is a difficult topic [for the victim] to talk about."

Before Christmas, the Swedish government is set to put forward a proposal on a new sexual consent law, including stricter punishments for perpetrators and increased support for victims during trials.

To create the Swedish Crime Survey, researchers interviewed approximately 12,000 adults aged between 16 and 79.

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