Fatal shootings on track for record high in Sweden

There have been a record number of fatal shootings so far this year in Sweden. Police are concerned this trend is set to continue over the summer months.

A police road block in Stockholm.
A police road block in Stockholm. Photo: Janerik Henriksson / TT

From January to May this year, more than 30 people have been shot dead in Sweden. In the same period in previous years, there has been an average of 17 fatal shootings.

There are concerns that the violence will escalate during the summer – which usually sees a rise in shootings in Sweden, as more people head outside.

“In the lighter time of the year, we see an increase in these types of incidents. It is easier to find their victims”, intelligence chief Jens Ahlstrand told newswire TT.

In 2020 and 2021, a record number of fatal shootings were registered in Sweden, when 47 people died from gun shots in each year.

Sweden’s intelligence chiefs say there are several “red” zones across the country, where the risk of new acts of violence is considered high. In the western region, there are currently around seven to eight of these zones.

“Should we have an act of violence in some of these environments, we know that the spiral of revenge and violence will escalate”, said Ahlstrand.

In the east region, shootings have increased sharply. Last year, nine shootings took place up to and including May – this year it’s 32.

Stockholm is estimated to be safer now than it was at the start of the year.  

“We have somewhere between six to eight ongoing hot zones that we highlight in the Stockholm region where there is a great risk of serious violence in the near future”, said Max Åkerwall, acting head of intelligence in Stockholm.

He describes, like several of his colleagues, that the situation is fragile and that it doesn’t take much for violence to escalate and for an area to go from green to red in just a couple of hours.

Police under pressure 

Sweden’s gun crime is increasing at a time when the police are already under pressure.

In Svenska Dagbladet, several police officers have testified that murder investigations are collapsing due to lack of organisation and qualified investigators.

Several intelligence chiefs have also expressed concern about increasingly younger perpetrators and a new type of ruthlessness.

“We have had a high proportion of shootings in these environments for a long time, but my feeling is that the intention to kill has become more common, even if it is not always successful”, says Per Lundbäck, head of the intelligence service in the Bergslagen region. 

Jale Poljarevius, head of the intelligence service in the central region, describes the fight against the gangs as an “infinite game” – a match without end.

“It’s a myth that you dismantle a network and then it’s over… If a network disappears completely, there is a risk that the void will be filled by others. With that comes new violence – new knife wounds and shootings,” Poljarevius says. 

“The breeding ground [for violence] is very good and we have failed to address that in Sweden – the prevention,” Mats Karlsson, head of the intelligence service in the south region, told newswire TT. 

Head of intelligence Jale Poljarevius said he hopes for a calmer summer but that he has his doubts.

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

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Attacker ‘severely disturbed’ during stabbing at Swedish political festival

Theodor Engström, the 33-year-old man who stabbed psychiatrist Ing-Marie Wieselgren to death at the Almedalen political festival in July, was seriously psychiatrically disturbed at the time of his attack, forensic psychiatrists have ruled.

Attacker 'severely disturbed' during stabbing at Swedish political festival

According to the Hela Gotland newspaper the Swedish National Board of Forensic Medicine has ruled that the man was so disturbed at the time of his attack he had lost the ability to understand the consequences of his actions, and has as a result recommended that he be given psychiatric treatment rather than a prison term.

The agency said that Engström had still been disturbed at the time he was given psychiatric assessment, and warned that there was a risk that Engström would commit further criminal acts. 

“This is a question which has relevance at a future stage,” said prosecutor Henrik Olin. “It means he cannot be sentenced to jail, but will instead receive psychiatric care. But it is not going to change how the investigation is carried out.” 

READ ALSO: What do we know about the Almedalen knife attack?

Engström stabbed Wieselgren, who worked as psychiatric coordinator for the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, as she was on the way to take part on a discussion at the Almedalen political festival. She died in hospital later that day. 

Engström has admitted to carrying out the attack, telling police that he intended to make a protest against the state of psychiatric healthcare in Sweden.