“We have prevented several shootings,” said Mattias Sigfridsson, acting police chief for the Malmö region.
In the southern city, the 34 fatal shootings in 2019 were at their lowest level in six years, while the number of illegal explosions was the lowest since police began collecting statistics on such incidents in 2017.
The shooting of a 15-year-old boy was the catalyst for Sweden to launch a 'special national incident' with a dedicated task force set up to look into the violent crime and take measures to prevent and reduce it. According to Sigfridsson, police units in Sweden's major cities took similar approaches to gang-related crime, focusing on preventative work.
“We are not satisfied yet, there is still a lot left to do. It's too early to draw conclusions about where we're at, but we know where we want to be and where we think we can get to,” said Sigfridsson.
“We have locked up many influential people and more or less dissolved a few criminal networks, which have now left the streets. We have prevented several shootings, although it's not possible to measure crime that doesn't happen,” he explained. “We confiscated one weapon every other day and in certain cases we have reason to believe that they would have been used.”
Similar trends were reported in the other large cities. In Gothenburg, the two fatal shootings in the city in 2019 represented a decrease by more than half. In Stockholm, the total number of shootings had declined, however more people died as a result of gun violence.
Across the whole of Sweden, there were 320 confirmed shootings resulting in 41 fatalities. Stockholm saw the most shootings (85) and fatalities (16), followed by the southern police region which covers Malmö (65 shootings, 10 fatalities), and the central police region (53 shootings, five fatalities).
And in more sparsely populated areas, which had historically been less affected by violent crime, there was a worrying increase of such incidents.
Northern Sweden saw the biggest increase in shootings, with a rise from three shootings in 2017 to 28 in 2019, of which two were fatal. A handful of these were linked to organized criminality, according to regional police chief Lars Wahlberg.
“Since access to weapons is increasing, so too does the risk of them being used in conflicts rise. But conflicts among criminals have existed for years and years, it's the guns and in some ways the explosives which are new,” he said.