MAP: How Swedish police cut home burglaries by over a third

MAP: How Swedish police cut home burglaries by over a third
Break-ins at home have become more rare. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT
Since 2015, the number of home break-ins in Sweden has fallen by 36 percent. One senior police officer spoke to The Local about what they have learned about burglaries in Sweden, and how that has helped police work to prevent them.

“These types of crimes are often difficult to investigate, there's usually no interaction between perpetrator and victim, as the aim of the burglars is to remain unseen,” explains Damir Celebic, who works with organizational development at NOA, the National Operative Unit at the Swedish police.

He says that a strategic approach to coordinating petty crime prevention has helped lower the burglary rate: “It is gratifying that the numbers are going in the right direction and that fewer citizens are exposed to thefts and break-ins at home.”

Celebic notes that even though burglaries are categorized as petty crime, they have an impact on perceived safety and on victims' wellbeing.

“Home break-ins are incredibly invasive in terms of privacy, it's a breach of integrity that hurts more than you think when a stranger is inside your home, rifling through your personal belongings and taking items with not only monetary but also sentimental value,” he said.

The statistics display the total of reported burglaries, both attempted and those actually carried out, in residential buildings including apartments and houses.

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On a national level, the number of home burglaries has decreased by 36 percent, but the southern police region has already halved the amount of reported home burglaries.

Celebic says that it is difficult to say why they've seen such a drastic downturn in break-ins, because they have focused on the same kinds of preventative efforts nationwide:

“One possible explanation is that region South was worse off to begin with so that, when you initiate and effectively work towards reducing these problems, it has a bigger impact,” he adds.

Many break-ins that occur in Sweden happen in clusters, where houses and their residents have similar levels of wealth and security, and the crimes occur close together in terms of time. After committing one break-in, it's easier for the perpetrator to use similar methods at a neighbouring residence.

“The risk of a break-in happening close to a house that has already been broken into increases drastically. You could liken it to a small fish pond. If you've been fishing there successfully you're more likely to go back to the same spot,” says Celebic.

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According to the police, half of all home break-ins have a connection to international criminal networks operating in Sweden, and Swedish police have been focusing more and more on preventing internationally coordinated break-ins.

These organized burglaries are often described in Swedish media as stöldturnéer, which roughly translates to “string of robberies” in English.  

“These gangs get into the country to commit a large amount of break-ins, but it's an international, cross-border phenomenon, it isn't just Sweden that's affected,” he explains.

The discovery that many home burglaries were committed by international criminal gangs influenced the police's way of working. They worked to clamp down on this kind of crime by coordinating at a national and cross-border level and doing checks at strategic points, and at the same time continued to work with crime prevention and operative work.

“I think it is a combination of these things that has contributed to the reduction in crime,” Celebic says.

But one tool that he believes has been particularly effective is one that on the surface appears comparatively simple.

Neighbourhood watch initiatives are one of the preventative actions that have been a focus point for police for the past few years. Groups of neighbours work together to keep an eye on their and each other's property and to be extra alert to any suspicious activity. This usually involves communication with the police, but it has been more and more common to coordinate with other institutions, like the local municipality.

According to The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention, Brå, having some kind of coordinated community watch may lower crime in the neighbourhood by up to 26 percent. 

“The residents coordinate with each other as well as the police, so you could say that there are more capable guardians and the risk of detection for burglars increase,” Celebic says.

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