Revealed: How the coronavirus pandemic is affecting crime in Sweden

Revealed: How the coronavirus pandemic is affecting crime in Sweden
Some crimes have fallen, others have increased. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
Crime in Sweden has fallen during the pandemic. But is that just coincidence, and how has it affected specific crimes such as assault or break-ins? New preliminary statistics shed light on the situation.

On the whole, fewer crimes were reported to Swedish police both in April this year compared to April last year (a drop of five percent) and in March this year compared to March last year (a drop of four percent).

Such falls in crime are not unique, the National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå) points out, and happen occasionally in months even when there isn't an ongoing pandemic. But the fact that the decrease for 2020 starts in March and continues in April – the months when the outbreak peaked – suggest that it's related. To compare, reported crime increased seven percent in January 2020 and ten percent in February 2020.

In Stockholm, the epicentre of the epidemic in Sweden, crime dropped by seven percent in both months.

Let's take a closer look at a few different categories of crime.


How reported crime in Sweden changed year-on-year in January, February, March and April. Photo: Brå

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See also on The Local:

Assault

Eight percent fewer assaults than last April were reported to the police in April 2020, and ten percent fewer in March.

“The decrease started in March, and can't be noted for January or February 2020 compared to the corresponding months in previous years. That indicates that the lower level of reported assaults could be as a result of the pandemic,” states Brå.

Sex crimes

Sexual offences dropped by nine percent in April compared to last year (following a three percent drop in March), with 22 percent fewer incidents of sexual molestation (sexuellt ofredande) reported in April following 12 percent fewer incidents in March. Rape went down seven percent in April and three percent in March.

Again, Brå notes that the fact that the decrease started in March suggests that it may be related to the pandemic, but stresses that the numbers are preliminary and that it is not uncommon to see a sharp rise or fall from one month to the next.

Fraud

There was a concern at the start of the pandemic that fraud incidents would increase, with scammers for example jumping on the opportunity to pretend to offer elderly people help with their grocery shopping.

Overall, the total number of fraud incidents appears to have been unaffected, writes Brå. Card fraud, for example, decreased 29 percent in April, following a decrease in both March and February. The fact that the decrease started in February suggests that it is not related to the coronavirus pandemic, adds Brå.

However, Brå also notes that “identity fraud and fraud through social manipulation” did increase in April this year compared to April last year, which it says it will take a closer look at in the next few months.

Traffic offences

As The Local has previously reported, road deaths dropped to a record low in Sweden in March, as people heeded recommendations to avoid non-essential travels in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

People reported for driving while under the influence of alcohol dropped by a whopping 31 percent in April this year compared to last year, and by 30 percent in March. The figure was already falling in February, but the significant decrease in the following two months indicates that it is related to the pandemic.

However, driving while under the influence of narcotics instead increased 33 percent in April and five percent in March compared to last year. “It is not currently possible to link the increase to the pandemic,” writes Brå.

Robberies and burglaries

As for theft, robberies and house break-ins, it is hard to say whether or not the pandemic has had an effect. It would be easy to assume that house break-ins would drop as a result of more people working from home, and they did fall by 22 percent in April, but remained relatively unchanged in March. The decrease in April “could be a consequence of the pandemic, but it is too early to draw any certain conclusions”, says Brå.

Robberies fell by one percent in April and eight percent in March compared to the same months last year, following an increase in February. However, Brå notes that the numbers are so small that it is hard to say for sure that the decrease is due to the pandemic.

Read more about Sweden's crime statistics (in Swedish) here.

Read more about the coronavirus in Sweden (in English) here.


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