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Polaris of Enlightenment

Swedish shootings cautionary tale in UN report

Deteriorating safety

Published 17 December 2023
- By Editorial Staff
Genre image - Swedish police van.

The latest UN report on lethal violence notes that some 458,000 people were murdered around the world last year. The report also highlights Sweden and its many gang-related shootings as a European horror story.

“Sweden has experienced unprecedented levels of gang violence and firearm-related deaths in recent years”, the report states.

In the international report, Sweden has its own fact box. It notes that the number of murders with firearms has risen sharply in recent years and that Sweden has a very high European level of fatal shootings.

“Sweden has experienced unprecedented levels of gang violence and firearm-related deaths in recent years. There were 391 shootings in Sweden, 63 of which were fatal in 2022. The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention reported that Sweden had among the highest levels of firearm-related deaths in a study of over 20 European countries”, the report states.

The report was prepared by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Photo: facsimile/UNODC

“This increase in the number of firearm homicides is related to criminal milieux in socially disadvantaged areas in the country. About 8 out of 10 homicides in Sweden occur in criminal milieux. Moreover, a significant share of all reported homicides is committed by young males aged 20–29. Another possible contributing factor is something called the ‘social contagion effect’, when one shooting leads to another”, it notes.

Gangs and drug trafficking

It points out that the rising number of murders is thought to be linked to criminal gangs and illegal drug markets, but that Sweden does not officially provide estimates of the proportion of reported murders that can be linked to gang crime.

“In Northern Europe, for example, the homicide rate in relation to all the different homicide mechanisms has gone down since 2016, with the exception of the rate of homicide perpetrated with a firearm, which has remained at the same level. This does not apply to Sweden, however, where the number of homicides perpetrated with a firearm has increased threefold since 2010. A study conducted by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention has shown that the illegal gun market has become easier to access and that the availability of guns has been associated with violence within the criminal milieu”, it says.

Outdated data

It can also be mentioned that the report is based on data from 2021 and 2022, so the high number of fatal shootings in the Stockholm area last year are not included. In the next report, the statistics for Sweden will likely be even bleaker.

– The report will have to address changes in trends. At the same time, international interest in developments in Sweden is quite high. Put simply, if it happens in Sweden, it can happen anywhere… Sweden is a country with strong institutions and a strong welfare state. Then you want to learn from what happens here so that you don’t get the same development in your own countries, Amir Rostami, professor of criminology, commented the report in an interview with GP.

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