Police in Oskarshamn announced earlier this month that they would take part in evening jogs to “increase feelings of security” in the town.
The initiative, originally reported by local media Östra Småland Nyheterna on November 9th, was intended by police to create “calm” for joggers out after dark in the town.
“We have heard a number of times that women feel a general insecurity when they are out in the evening,” police inspector Peter Karlsson told Östra Småland Nyheterna at the time.
The officer also said that he “could not say we have had a lot of incidents, but we have had some complaints.”
“There is a perceived insecurity more than a real one. Not much happens here, but people are affected by what is happening elsewhere in the world and can feel unsafe when it’s dark,” the officer told broadcaster SVT last week.
Karlsson told SVT that, since they would be required to be equipped for duty, police would carry their standard equipment, including batons and handcuffs, while taking part in the jogs.
Police in the town, which has a population of around 18,000, were initially set to carry out a week-long trial of the scheme including three police jogs, according to the Östra Småland Nyheterna report.
The story gathered international attention when Nigel Farage, the former leader of Britain’s populist anti-EU party UKIP, spoke about the initiative on radio station LBC.
“[In] the Swedish city of Oskarshamn… joggers going out after night will have the option of being accompanied by armed police officers.
“This is something that the local inspector thinks will make people a bit safer at night, going out in a Swedish city.
“Who would have believed I would have said that about a Swedish city just five years ago? It is truly incredible,” Farage said.
Far-right US media Breitbart reported the story last week, also portraying it as evidence that Sweden has become unsafe due to immigration.
Following Farage’s comments, anti-immigration Italian party Lega Nord also took the opportunity to comment on Sweden.
“This is the small price you pay for multiculturalism,” Lega Nord leader Umberto Bossi wrote, according to a report by P4 Kalmar.
Anders Pleijel, inspector with the police in northern Kalmar County, where Oskarshamn is located, told news agency TT that the way the news had been spread was “unfortunate”.
“You don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Unfortunately, there are always people who interpret things to suit their own agenda,” Pleijel told TT.
“This was a measure to help the whole community by increasing security. Nothing more,” he added.
Sweden is no stranger to being described abroad as a country in decline.
A list of vulnerable (utsatta in Swedish) areas published by police in 2015 has been repeatedly portrayed as “no-go zones” or areas in which police were unable to work, a claim which has been rejected by authorities.
In February this year, American television station Fox News billed commentator Nils Bildt, who was unknown to Swedish authorities and also has a criminal conviction in the US, as a “Swedish Defense and National Security Advisor”.
US president Donald Trump has also misrepresented the country to support his own anti-immigration position.
The Local's co-founder and chief publishing officer James Savage responded to Farage on Twitter with a series of posts defending Sweden.
Yet again, let's just remind ourselves that the thing about Sweden being a rape capital has been thoroughly debunked https://t.co/m4xEFZZeb3
— James Savage (@SavLocal) November 25, 2017