Swedish National Police chief: Murder levels must come down

Forty-three people were shot to death in Sweden in 2017 and the new year has not shown many signs of improvement.

Swedish National Police chief: Murder levels must come down
Flowers left after a recent violence incident in Stockholm. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT
Responding to the deadly spate of violence amongst criminal elements in Malmö, Gothenburg and Stockholm, the chief of the Swedish National Police vowed to do better. 
“It's hard to eliminate murders altogether, but we have to get the levels down considerably,” Dan Eliasson said. 
Eliasson’s police force has plenty to contend with. Just a few days ago, an explosive was detonated outside of a police station in the Rosengård district of Malmö in what police called “a response from criminals”. Not long before that, a police car parked outside a police station in central Malmö was damaged in an explosion
Meanwhile, two young men were recently shot dead in the Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby and there were also recent killings in Helsingborg, Sundbyberg and Malmö.
During a visit to Malmö this week, Eliasson said “it is important to ensure that the fatal violence doesn’t escalate”. 
“The potential for violence that we have seen in [the Stockholm suburbs of] Rinkeby, Tensta and Husby, and in Malmö, is significant. Things move fast when criminal networks start shooting each other. We do not want to see that. We want to stop it,” he said. 
Last year, 43 people were shot and killed in Sweden and over 300 shooting incidents were recorded. The vast majority of cases are linked to ongoing gang conflicts. At the same time that gang-related killings are increasing, other violence cases actually fell by roughly three percent in 2017. 
As The Local has previously reported, official figures have shown that deadly violence has decreased in Sweden compared to the 1990s, but the number of gun deaths appears to be on the rise.
Eliasson said it is “time for us to show that we can break the trend”.
“We will do that in 2018, I have great hopes that it will be done. To put it another way: we must not fail. We need to improve our results in this area,” he said. 
National Police Chief Dan Eliasson. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT
National Police Chief Dan Eliasson. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT
The National Police chief said that getting people to speak to up would go a long way in bringing the deadly shootings down. 
“I think there is a certain understanding within the gang environments that those affected by these fatalities do not want to contribute to the police investigations,” Eliasson said. 
Even among the general public, Eliasson said there is a hesitancy to testify in gang-related cases. 
“I am genuinely worried about the will of the public to tell us what they saw in cases of fatal or serious violence. The willingness to testify is not as great as the Swedish police would like. We can provide protection but too many choose not to tell us what they have seen and heard,” he said.
Figures released by Sweden's National Council on Crime Prevention (Brå) last week showed that Swedes are increasingly worried about the country’s crime levels
Eliasson said that tightened weapons regulations that came into effect at the outset of the year would prove to be a powerful tool against organized crime. Under the new regulations, people suspected of serious violent crimes can be detained immediately. Police will also be given new opportunities to swoop up criminals on lower charges that are suspected of being involved in something more serious. 
“Sometimes we do not achieve success in murder investigations even though we really know who did it. If we can pick that person up for drugs or weapons violations and and deprive them of their freedom, that goes a long way toward creating security in our society,” he said. 
Despite growing gang violence and increasing unease amongst Swedes, police stress that the risk of being a victim of violence is still small. 
“Swedes should continue to live as usual. Then there may be situations in which you should be vigilant, but Sweden is basically a safe country,” Eliasson said. 


Attacker ‘severely disturbed’ during stabbing at Swedish political festival

Theodor Engström, the 33-year-old man who stabbed psychiatrist Ing-Marie Wieselgren to death at the Almedalen political festival in July, was seriously psychiatrically disturbed at the time of his attack, forensic psychiatrists have ruled.

Attacker 'severely disturbed' during stabbing at Swedish political festival

According to the Hela Gotland newspaper the Swedish National Board of Forensic Medicine has ruled that the man was so disturbed at the time of his attack he had lost the ability to understand the consequences of his actions, and has as a result recommended that he be given psychiatric treatment rather than a prison term.

The agency said that Engström had still been disturbed at the time he was given psychiatric assessment, and warned that there was a risk that Engström would commit further criminal acts. 

“This is a question which has relevance at a future stage,” said prosecutor Henrik Olin. “It means he cannot be sentenced to jail, but will instead receive psychiatric care. But it is not going to change how the investigation is carried out.” 

READ ALSO: What do we know about the Almedalen knife attack?

Engström stabbed Wieselgren, who worked as psychiatric coordinator for the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, as she was on the way to take part on a discussion at the Almedalen political festival. She died in hospital later that day. 

Engström has admitted to carrying out the attack, telling police that he intended to make a protest against the state of psychiatric healthcare in Sweden.