Hand Grenades and Gang Violence Rattle Sweden’s Middle Class
By ELLEN BARRY and CHRISTINA ANDERSON MARCH 3, 2018
… Weapons from a faraway, long-ago war are flowing into immigrant neighborhoods here, puncturing Swedes’ sense of confidence and security. The country’s murder rate remains low, by American standards, and violent crime is stable or dropping in many places. But gang-related assaults and shootings are becoming more frequent, and the number of neighborhoods categorized by the police as “marred by crime, social unrest and insecurity” is rising. Crime and immigration are certain to be key issues in September’s general election, alongside the traditional debates over education and health care.
Part of the reason is that Sweden’s gang violence, long contained within low-income suburbs, has begun to spill out. In large cities, hospitals report armed confrontations in emergency rooms, and school administrators say threats and weapons have become commonplace. Last week two men from Uppsala, both in their 20s, were arrested on charges of throwing grenades at the home of a bank employee who investigates fraud cases. …
Illegal weapons often enter Sweden over the Oresund Bridge, a 10-mile span that links the southern city of Malmo to Denmark. When it opened, in 2000, the bridge symbolized the unfurling of a vibrant, borderless Europe, but in recent years it has been more closely associated with smuggling, of people, weapons and drugs.
The influx of heavy weapons has caught Sweden’s criminal justice systems unprepared.
… The police are struggling to gather information in immigrant neighborhoods, and clearance rates for gun homicide cases have fallen steadily since the 1990s.
… Sweden’s far right-wing party blames the government’s liberal immigration policy for the rising crime, and will thrust the issue to the fore in the fall campaign.
Last year, Peter Springare, 61, a veteran police officer in Orebro, published a furious Facebook post saying violent crimes he was investigating were committed by immigrants from “Iraq, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Somalia, Syria again, Somalia, unknown country, unknown country, Sweden.” It was shared more than 20,000 times; Mr. Springare has since been investigated twice by state prosecutors, once for inciting racial hatred, though neither resulted in charges.
Even President Trump weighed in on the issue, saying that after taking in “large numbers” of immigrants, Sweden was “having problems like they never thought possible.”
Police officials are more likely to attribute gang violence to a failure of integration, citing a recent study of a Swedish street gang that found 24 percent of its members were ethnic Swedes, and 42 percent had been born in Sweden.