'Completely unacceptable': Swedish police chief says fatal gun violence represents a 'failure'

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'Completely unacceptable': Swedish police chief says fatal gun violence represents a 'failure'
The number of people killed by gunfire in Sweden reached a record high in 2022. Photo by Philip Myrtorp / Unsplash

More people than ever before were shot dead in Sweden in 2022, and the new year has begun with a new spiral of violence in Stockholm.


As long as new boys step forward to pick up the weapons, the gang violence will continue, National Operations Department (NOA) chief Johan Olsson said in an interview with TT.

"Of course, it cannot be seen as anything other than a failure of society and the police. It is, of course, a completely unacceptable development," Olsson said about the sharp increase in fatal firearm violence in 2022.

The increase is believed to be partly due to the fact that the violence has spread more outside the three big cities and partly because an increasingly high percentage of shootings result in someone dying, he added.

This is also clearly visible in the statistics: 28 percent of those who were shot in 2021 died, compared to 37 percent in 2022.

"We see that people shoot to kill to a greater extent. Our interpretation is that the conflicts have become so violent and that people put more effort into killing in order not to become a victim themselves," Olsson explained.


Culture of violence

This can be seen, among other things, in the fact that more shots are usually fired, he added.

There is no clear answer to what drives the violence. Still, it is clear that a culture has developed in Sweden's underworld where people have to personally be violent in order to "be someone".

"It is not enough to belong to a group -you have to do it yourself. One must respond with deadly force to the slightest perceived injustice.

"To a large extent, we see that the actors in the smaller cities are adopting the same mentality," he added.

New violent incidents

Although the police achieved a lot of success in fighting crime last year – not least through information from encrypted chats that led to the convictions of many gang criminals – violent incidents continue.

Stockholm is the main arena for gang clashes. Around ten acts of violence took place in the region between Christmas Day and the end of the first week of the new year, including three murders and several attempted murders.

"In 2022, we broke a record in the number of people we arrested for serious and particularly serious weapons offences, more than one arrest per day. We also see that – over time – we're prosecuting more and more people for murder and attempted murder. So, we have achieved operational success, but we do not see the violence decreasing," Olsson noted.

The problem is that new young men and boys always step forward when others are removed from the picture.


Stopping recruitment

The long-term solution is to stop new recruitment into crime networks.

At present, a number of things are being done to address these violent incidents. For example, Stockholm now has a reinforcement of approximately 200 police officers from other parts of the police who contribute with a range of different skills.

"We work hard to have the most resources where we have the biggest problems. Decisions are made all the time," he said.

In the short term, more people with the right skills are also needed to investigate serious crimes.

In terms of measures that politics can contribute to the fight against gun violence, he highlighted so-called preventive tools as the most important - that is, for example, that the police can intercept people without there being any suspicion of a crime.

A government inquiry suggested such tools last fall, and the government has announced that a bill is in the works.


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