Swedish government to launch ‘rapid inquiry’ into increased surveillance

TT/The Local
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Swedish government to launch ‘rapid inquiry’ into increased surveillance
Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer at a press conference announcing the measures. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

The government and the Sweden Democrats plan to launch a rapid inquiry into increasing police surveillance powers – including face-recognition cameras – in order to combat gang violence.


Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer argued in a press conference that more cameras will make it easier for police to prevent shootings and explosions, as well as helping to catch the perpetrators of any attacks criminals manage to carry out.

The three government parties and the far-right Sweden Democrats believe that the police should be allowed to use facial recognition to identify gang members, have access to technology which can automatically read number plates and also be able to access footage from cameras which are already in place for other reasons, for example cameras used to monitor traffic.

These three points will be investigated in a fast-tracked inquiry.

“At the moment, Swedish police get puzzled questions from colleagues in other countries when they realise that, for example, cameras which are used to monitor the congestion charge can’t be used by police directly for fighting major organised crime,” Strömmer told a press conference.

The exact date at which this will be in place is not yet clear. The four parties are still working on the inquiry and the directive with more details is not publicly available.


“But the whole point [of the fast track] is that this should be complete within six to eight months, this is something that usually takes twice as long,” Strömmer said.

The government has also added a supplementary directive to an ongoing inquiry on camera surveillance, which would allow police further powers to use drones for surveillance purposes. The proposal based on that inquiry will be presented next April.

A new goal has also been set for the total number of surveillance cameras in Sweden. By the end of next year, the government wants there to be 2,500 cameras, up from 1,600 which was the previous goal.

This earlier goal was already a fourfold increase compared to the current number of cameras across Sweden.

The new fast-track inquiry is in addition to new powers the police gained on October 1st, which govern the terms under which Swedish police are permitted to monitor conversations in order to prevent crimes from occurring.

Before, the only body which was permitted to use these surveillance powers, which include listening in on conversations or phone calls and monitoring suspects with cameras, was the Security Service (Säpo), in order to prevent crimes which threaten Sweden's national security.

Under the new rules, the police are able to use these measures in cases of typical gang-related crimes, such as murder, abduction, bombs and serious weapon or drug-related crimes.

Permits for using these measures to monitor suspicious activity can also now be linked to specific people, rather than just specific areas, as was previously the case.


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