Malmö releases first results from city-wide ‘Stop Shooting’ campaign

Malmö is fighting back against its image for violent crime with an innovative campaign that is involving the community, social services, the police and prison & probation services.

Malmö releases first results from city-wide ‘Stop Shooting’ campaign
Photo: Anna Kosztovics, Deputy Project Leader of Platform Malmö

Sweden’s third-largest city has long been dubbed the nation’s Chicago with parallels drawn between the two cities’ reputations for gun-related violence and murders. While 2018 witnessed the lowest number of crimes in the city for 17 years, the perception of Malmö as a shooter’s paradise has been hard to shake.

Something had to be done.

And so over a year ago the city of Malmö, in tandem with the police, social services, the local community, and prison and probation services began reaching out to the groups involved in the shootings. Note the word groups, not gangs.

The campaign is called Sluta Skjut (Stop Shooting) and leans heavily on the Group Violence Intervention (GVI) model, which has been used to great success in the United States. Since the initiative was introduced in Malmö, around 20 group members have been in contact with authorities.

Click here to find out more about Malmö

“We don’t use the word gang. These are groups with friends in different groups who hang out together. There is loyalty among these friends but it can easily change,” Anna Kosztovics, Deputy Project Leader of Platform Malmö, tells The Local.

GVI has been rolled out across American cities like Chicago and Baltimore during the last two decades. The ethos is about fostering cooperation and trust between the authorities and the groups. In essence, to switch the group mentality to become one that works towards crime prevention and law enforcement instead.

At the heart of Sluta Skjut is the ‘call-in’, which involves face-to-face meetings with group members and authorities working on the project. Individuals who are invited to the call-in are already known to the police as part of their probation or conditional release. In the six months following the first call-in, which took place on October 11th, 2018, there have been fewer shootings than the previous period – five in total, one of which was fatal – and the seizing of 80 illegal weapons.

“What is important for the police is that we relate to proven research when introducing new methods. ‘Sluta skjut’ is a method from the US with evidence that we have adopted to Malmö,” says chief of police Stefan Sintéus, responsible for the Swedish implementation in Malmö.

He adds, “We have already had considerable benefit from the method, which in principle is used by the entire Malmö police. When we have evaluated the method based on Swedish conditions, we will decide how and if the method is to be introduced within the Swedish police.”

Organisers of Sluta Skjut were pleasantly surprised at the turnout of group members at the first Malmö call-in, says Mona Frank of the Prison & Probation Service.

Photo: Mona Frank of the Prison & Probation Service

“We had invited 10 group members and said we would be happy if three or four showed up. Nine came along, perhaps out of curiosity, but most were positive that something needs to be done,” says Frank.

The stories which were heard were sobering for all in attendance. A mother, who lost her son, talked about the pain of her loss and how she didn’t want anyone else to suffer the same fate. Indeed, the city of Malmö intends to involve mothers, whose children have been shot, to get involved with the project and give it a human face.

Elsewhere at the call-in, medics explained what happens to you when you get shot and how it affects people in the waiting room who might not get their treatment in time because a gunshot wound has higher priority. And an imam explained how gun violence destroys communities.

“The message is that we are here to help them and the people they associate with but that the groups have to stop violent acts. If not, we will go after the whole group if one of them commits a violent crime so the idea is that they will talk to each other and find more peaceful solutions to their conflicts. No group wants to have the attention of the police,” says Anna Kosztovics.

Across the Atlantic, where it has been used for more than 20 years, GVI has led to a 63 percent reduction in youth homicides in Boston while in Chicago a 23 percent reduction in shooting behaviours at groups involved at the call-in has been found. The organisers of Sluta Skjut are working closely with their American counterparts to coordinate the Swedish version.

“One of the main differences with GVI in Sweden, compared to America, is the definition of civil society. You have all sorts of associations in the US; things are more coordinated here. Social services are much more involved,” adds Kosztovics.

Click here to find out more about Malmö

Collaboration is key with the project enhancing the already strong relationship between the police, prison & probation authorities and the city of Malmö. Getting the message across that change must come from within is a fundamental part of Sluta Skjut along with getting the groups to recognise that there is help out there.

“There are those who have been threatened by criminal organisations and want to leave the group. Some are forced to keep drugs in their apartment. They are all at different stages and may need help, for example to find a safe place to live,” says Kosztovics.

While the offer of help is sincere, there are no rewards for wanting to pursue an honest lifestyle say the organisers. Crimes will still be prosecuted either way but emphasising that the group members are a part of society that cares is pivotal to Sluta Skjut.

While the multi-year project is in its infancy and it is still too early to tell what the results will be, the organisers say that it is already starting to bear fruit.

“The best part so far is the cooperation with the other organisations with Malmö stad and the police. Malmö does not have a fair image; it’s only a small amount of people that are doing the shootings. This project is trying to do something and has already attracted a lot of interest from other cities,” concludes Mona Frank of the Prison & Probation service.

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Malmö stad.

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EXPLAINED: What happens when a foreigner gets arrested in Sweden?

It’s a situation nobody ever wants to be in, but what happens if you’re arrested in Sweden? What should you do, and what are your rights?

EXPLAINED: What happens when a foreigner gets arrested in Sweden?

Most of the people who come to Sweden to work, join a Swedish partner, or start a new life are law-abiding folk. Hardly anyone comes with the intention of breaking the law.  But from time to time, due to an accident of fortune or poor decision-making, foreigners end up on the wrong end of the law. 

Pray it never happens but if you are arrested in Sweden, what are your rights? What happens next, and who can help you? 

Whether it’s a traffic accident, misunderstanding, or murder charge, Swedish law follows certain processes upon arrest. 

The first stages 

The first stage of a police investigation is the anmälan, or report. Anyone can report you for committing a crime, regardless of whether they are the victim. The tax agency, for instance, can report you for fraud. If the police catch you doing something illegal, the officer can file a report themselves. 

After the report is registered, someone is appointed to lead the preliminary investigation — a so-called förundersökningsledare or “investigation leader”. The förundersökningsledare can be either a police officer or a prosecutor, depending on how serious the crime is. 

The förundersökningsledare then decides if there is sufficient reason to suspect that you have committed a crime.

There are two grades of suspicion. The lowest level is skäligen misstänkt or “reasonable suspicion”, which means that there are “circumstances which with a certain strength indicate that you have committed the act.  The next level up is på sannolika skäl, or “on probable cause”, that you have committed the act. 

When can you get arrested? 

If the förundersökningsledare has declared you a suspect, a police officer might be sent to arrest you. A police officer can also arrest you on their own initiative if they think that there is a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed. 

All it takes to arrest someone in Sweden is for the officer to say “du är gripen“, meaning “you are under arrest”. If you resist,  the officer is permitted to employ as much violence as necessary to get you to the police station. 

If a member of the public observes you committing a crime serious enough to warrant a prison sentence, they are also allowed to arrest you, either while you are committing the crime or fleeing the scene. A member of the public is also allowed to arrest anyone wanted by the police for a crime. 

Not everyone suspected of committing a crime is necessarily arrested. If there is no danger to the public, no risk of you tampering with evidence, and no risk that you might flee, then police can decide to leave you free until you are asked to appear for interview or in court. 

When you are arrested, police will search you for any weapons, drugs or suspicious goods, and may take your telephone if it could contain evidence of a crime, but they will otherwise leave you with your belongings. 

What happens after your arrest? 

If you have been arrested by a police officer who had a reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime, you need to have a formal interview or förhör at the police station as soon as possible. Police may also interview the person who reported you, your alleged victim (the målsägande, which literally means “case owner”), and any witnesses. 

You can only be held at the police station for a maximum of 12 hours before a prosecutor decides whether there is sufficient reason for you to be anhållan, or “held”.  If they decide there is not, then you need to be released. 

If you are held, then you are taken to a cell, where you can be held for a maximum of three days, before which the prosecutor needs to either release you or request that you be häktad, or placed in pre-trial custody. 

When the decision is made to “hold” you, your personal belongings — phone, wallet, keys, etc — are taken from you and stored.

To be placed in pre-trial custody, you have to have committed a crime that can potentially lead to at least one year in prison. The prosecutor must also demonstrate that there is a risk you will tamper with the evidence or flee.

The decision to hold someone in pre-trial custody needs to be made by a judge at a so-called häktningsförhandling, or “detention hearing”. Unlike a full trial, this hearing is decided by a single judge. 

When can you get a defence lawyer? 

You can ask for a defence lawyer as soon as you are arrested. You can request one by name, or request a specific law firm, or, if you don’t know of any specific defence lawyers, just ask the court to appoint one for you. The court can normally contact the lawyer within a few hours, meaning you should ideally have a defence lawyer with you in your first police interview. 

When can you contact your embassy or family? 

The Swedish authorities are legally obliged to inform national embassies of the arrest of one of their citizens, and will normally do so themselves automatically, according to the British Embassy’s guideIf they do not do so, you can request that they do. 

You can ask the police at any time if you want to make a telephone call, but unlike in the UK or US, you have no right to make a phone call. It is up to the discretion of the prosecutor whether to allow you one, and very often they deny it. 

Most embassies have an urgent number people who are arrested can call. The UK’s line is +46 (0) 8 671 30 00 / +44 1908 51 6666, France’s is 0851992349, Germany’s is +46708529420. 

In practice, it is much better to ask your defence lawyer to contact your embassy, or to request that you can make a phone call. 

Friends and relatives of people who have been arrested can also contact their embassy for them, so that the embassy can find out where they are being held and any details of the suspicions against them. 

What can your embassy do? 

Most European embassies will work with defence lawyers to ensure that their citizens are treated well. 

“The Embassy provides impartial, non-judgemental assistance to British citizens who have been arrested or are in jail in Sweden,” a UK embassy spokesperson told The Local. We aim to make sure they are treated properly in line with Swedish regulations, and no less favourably than other prisoners.”

The first stage of this is a consular visit, which most European embassies generally aim to make within about 24 hours of being notified of your arrest. 

If you request it, your embassy will normally be able to inform your next-of-kin in your home country of your arrest. 

Unless you request otherwise, most embassies will also keep the fact that you have been detained and what the charges are confidential. 

How long can I be held before my trial? 

Perhaps the most criticised aspect of the Swedish justice system is the length that suspects can be held in pretrial detention, while the police and prosecutor carry out their investigations. The system has been criticised by the  United Nations Committee Against Torture, the Council of Europe.

The only limit is that Sweden’s Supreme Court has held that the detention must be reasonably proportional in relation to what may be gained from it (NJA 2015 s. 261) and the injury to the defendant.

In theory, there is no limit to the length of time a suspect can be held in pre-trial detention, so long as the custody is extended by a judge every 14 days. So far the record is a little over four years or being held without trial, and suspects are frequently held for over a year before a court rules on their case. 

There is no bail system in Sweden. 

What restrictions can I be under while in pre-trial detention? 

Prosecutors in Sweden often impose restrictions on those in pre-trial detention on the grounds that otherwise the defendant might change their story or tamper with the evidence. Critics often accuse police of imposing excessive restrictions to break suspects, pushing them to give details of the crime to reduce the time until their trial. 

Restrictions might include stopping suspects from being able to: 

  • receive or send letters without them first being inspected by the prosecutor
  • receive visits without special permission from the prosecutor
  • receive or make phone calls without special permission from the prosecutor
  • watch TV, listen to the radio and read newspapers
  • interact with other inmates

You always have the right to contact your lawyer, a member of consular staff (in special circumstances you may be allowed contact with family). You can also see a priest or other representative of a religious order.  

When will I go to trial? 

When the prosecutor has amassed enough evidence that they feel that there is sufficient evidence to prosecute, they will issue an åtal, or prosecution document, after which the court will set a date for the trial. 

Prosecutors will only do this if they judge that there is tillräckliga skäl för att väcka åtal, “sufficient cause for laying charges”. If they do not, the will end the investigation without laying charges, at which point you must be released.