The term 'especially vulnerable areas' is used to describe neighbourhoods characterized by a low socio-economic status where criminals have an impact on the local community, while Sweden also publishes lists of 'risk areas' and 'vulnerable areas'.
Since it was first published in 2015, the police's list of “especially vulnerable areas” has been mischaracterized by some right-wing commentators, including internationally, as a list of “no-go zones” where law and order has completely broken down.
Politicians from several cities in Sweden as a result this week called for their local districts to either be removed from the list or for the list to be kept secret, arguing that the stigma of inclusion outweighed any benefit.
Erik Pelling, a Social Democrat councillor in Uppsala, on Tuesday called for the city's Gottsunda district to be pulled from the list, calling it an “outdated weapon”.
“For us it was devastating to end up on it,” he told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper. “At a time when we needed to bring in more investment and planned to build new housing there, Gottsunda instead got a powerful negative label.”
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Politicians in Linköping, Gothenburg, and Örebro are also critical, and Greta Berg from the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions told the newspaper that while inclusion on the list could give municipalities “a kick up the arse”, her members were ambivalent.
“Many find on the other hand that the label such districts get makes it harder to push forward constructive preventive work,” she said.
Manne Gerell, a criminologist at Malmö University, told The Local that although he believed police would publish the list again this year, he believed it should be more nuanced, with all Sweden's municipalities receiving a number, or perhaps a colour on a map.
He said that the list had helped police and politicians see the issue of problem areas from a national perspective and develop tools and strategies which can be applied in all the country's cities.
“I think it's been good in general,” he said. “It has served a purpose in bringing these issues to light more, and putting them on the agenda, and that has helped to get other actors, mainly the municipalities, involved in fighting these problems.”
Morgan Johansson told the annual conference arranged by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention that the list, which last year included 23 areas, was “a good tool for everyone who works in crime prevention”.
“There is no reason to keep it secret. It is important to be open and not to sweep any problems under the carpet,” he said.
Despite the criticism, the Swedish's police's national coordinating division Noa plans publish the list again this year.
“For the police, it's important to highlight facts and put these on the table in complete openness, in order to be able to move forward from that and take measures together with the affected areas. We don't think we should put energy into trying to keep things secret,” said Mats Löfving, head of Noa.