Sweden: use of military to fight gang crime?

sweden: use of military to fight gang crime?

The Swedish social democratic head of government Stefan Lofven. Image: Tore Sætre/CC BY-SA-4.0

In the election year, the Swedes’ fear of crime grows, the parties, driven by the right-wing Sweden Democrats, turn up the heat as with the refugee policy

Fear of crime is growing in Sweden. According to a just-released survey by the National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå), 29 percent say they are concerned about crime in Sweden. In 2016, 25 percent said this (though now it’s only back to where it was in 2006, when the poll first took place). At the same time, trust in the legal system, the police and the public prosecutors is declining.

Women are more afraid than men. 23 percent fear burglaries, compared to 17 percent of men. Burglaries are the crime the Swedes are most worried about. 23 percent of women also fear violent attacks, compared to only 9 percent of men. The discrepancy is even starker when it comes to how safe people feel when walking in their neighborhoods at night. 30 percent of women feel unsafe or have never been out of the house, compared to 9 percent of men. In another Brå survey, 1.2 percent said they had been burglarized, 2.7 percent said they had been the victim of a robbery.

This is also significant because the next parliamentary elections will be held in September. According to the latest polls, the Social Democrats will remain the strongest party, while it is uncertain whether the Greens will be able to re-enter parliament and break the 4-percent barrier. The moderates are gaining ground, presumably because the right-wing Sweden Democrats are becoming less attractive and losing voters. In Sweden, the refugee ie is still the most important in the election campaign, but the Social Democrats and the moderates have moved further to the right in this respect and have adopted demands that initially came from the right (the refugee challenge and populism).

The Left Party is also becoming more popular. But according to the poll results, there will be no red-red-green majority, but also none for the conservative camp with the Moderate Rally Party and the Center Party. Even if the Christian Democrats manage to win, which is unlikely, there would be no coalition. So, in Sweden, it will also go in the direction of German conditions, either with a rough coalition or with a minority government of moderates supported, for example, by the Sweden Democrats.

In election campaign mode, the "Russian danger" and the fear of Russian interference is played high. But the parties are also positioning themselves on the ie of security, although this is not primarily about refugees, but about gang crime. In 2017, according to a police report, there were over 600 racketeering incidents in Sweden, resulting in 41 deaths and 135 injuries. Mostly it was about drugs and gang rivalries. Although the number of violent crimes is declining from a high in the 1990s, the number of people killed by firearms seems to be on the rise.

In January, there have already been racketeering incidents in Malmo and Stockholm, each with one death. Both are connected with gangs. In early January, a man died while trying to pick up a hand grenade. Hand grenades are increasingly used by gangs. In 2016, according to the Swedish police, there were 52 hand grenade attacks, 27 exploded (One dead by hand grenade). And last night a hand grenade exploded in front of a police station in Malmo.

Organized crime "declare war"

Justice Minister Morgan Johansson said police resources had to be beefed up and hundreds of new prisons and detention centers built because of the rising violence. They said the government wants to crack down on organized crime in particular.

On Wednesday, during a debate in the Riksdag, the head of the government, Stefan Lofven, declared that the government must act more sharply against racketeering and gangs, including with tougher laws and attacks on their economic resources: "We will continue to fight the formation of a parallel society", he promised. Ulf Kristersson, party leader of the Sweden Democrats, immediately sought to distinguish himself as even tougher: "We need a much sharper jurisdiction. The state must take back control. This is not a negotiation." His party wants to fight organized crime "declare war" and also advocated the use of the military for this purpose.

Lofven responded in an interview afterward that the military was not his first resort, but he was prepared to do what was necessary, and did not rule out using the military domestically to fight crime. The Minister of Justice also joined his head of government, saying that one could not exclude using the military against gangs. Lofven had thought of situations that "extremely extreme" are where you have to consider the possibilities to deal with them.

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