How did reported crime rates change in Sweden last year?

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards - [email protected]
How did reported crime rates change in Sweden last year?
Police pictured attending a crime scene. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

A total of more than 1.5 million crimes were reported in Sweden in 2019, representing only a very slight overall change from the previous year. But there were still significant changes, including an increase in rapes, drugs-related crimes, vandalism, and a decrease in home break-ins and thefts.


Two categories of crime saw a particularly significant increase in reporting rates: drugs crimes, which were up by six percent on the previous year, and crimes of vandalism, up by eight percent. Around half of the drugs-related crimes related to personal use, while possession crimes represented 43 percent of the total.

The figures come from the preliminary report by Sweden's National Council on Crime Prevention (Brå), and relate only to offences reported to police and investigated by authorities as a crime, so can't always be considered as a perfectly accurate impression of the level of crime within Sweden.

Another of the biggest increases was in the number of reported rapes, which was up by six percent with 8,350 reports made in 2019.

In most cases, the victim of rape was a woman or child (aged 0-17), with rapes of women accounting for 4,670 of the total. Of these crimes, almost a third (32 percent) were carried out by the partner of the victim. The number of reported rapes of children remained almost unchanged at 3,410.

Brå does not look into the reasons behind changes in report numbers in its annual statistics, but these changes can be caused by, for example, different conditions and law changes. In July 2018, Sweden changed its laws around sexual assault to include a charge of "negligent rape" which meant all sexual intercourse without explicit consent was categorized as rape.

Crimes related to fraud were the kind which saw the biggest reduction, with reported instances falling by six percent. 

When it comes to what Sweden calls 'crimes against an individual', including both physical and sexual assault, the overall number was more or less the same as in 2018, with 290,000 reports made. 

Within this category, there was a seven percent rise in crimes of assault against children (under-18-year-olds) of which a total of 25,200 reports were made.

The number of assaults against women was 28,000, a small reduction of one percent, with the majority of these crimes (78 percent) committed by a relative or acquaintance of the victim. Just under a third (31 percent) of crimes against women fell into the category of violence committed by a partner.

By contrast, almost two thirds (59 percent) of reported assaults against men were carried out by a stranger.

When it came to theft, there were 436,000 instances reported, which represents a reduction of two percent. The biggest reduction was when it came to pick-pocketing (down by eight percent) or break-ins to residential properties (down by 14 percent). Break-ins to houses fell by 13 percent while break-ins to apartments fell by 16 percent.

But muggings increased by 12 percent, reaching a total of 7,640 reported crimes in 2019. In 657 of these incidents, the perpetrator was reported to have a firearm. 

Brå's final statistics will be published in March.


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