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Addressing Sweden's Rising Homicide: A Call for a Comprehensive Solution

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By Tobias Pardoen

Edited by Mélanie Fourtanier & Federico Durante

Sweden grapples with the troubling challenge of rising homicide rates. With four deadly shootings per million people, it surpasses the European average of 1.6 deaths by far. Prime Minister Kristersson sought military aid, tighter immigration policies, and a strict anti-crime approach in response to this challenge. However, these actions fall short of addressing the root causes, exacerbating societal divisions. The focus should shift to prioritising solutions that directly address these underlying issues.

©Johan Nilsson/TT News Agency

Address the Roots, Not the Symptoms

Kristersson attributes the increase in violence to the failure to integrate immigrants. Indeed, the facts are stark: inexperienced teenage boys in segregated neighbourhoods are mostly responsible for shootings, bombings, and grenade attacks.

Approximately 85 per cent of street gang members in these areas have an immigrant background or are foreign-born. However, the blame for this does not rest solely on immigration.

The segregation in Swedish society has deepened due to separated housing areas, integration gaps, social oversight failures, resistance to desegregation, and a belief in achieving social harmony through segregating white-collar and blue-collar districts, fueled by market-driven housing policies.

Rather than solely tightening immigration policies, equal emphasis should be on combating segregation. To address these issues, Kristersson should advocate for a thorough assessment of socio-economic problems within the Swedish housing market and discuss necessary solutions.

Instead, Kristersson's coalition has exacerbated segregation and fractured the longstanding political consensus in Swedish politics by fostering alarming narratives about immigrants.

His strategy involves diverting the discourse from the economy and the welfare system to the perceived pressure that immigration exercises on Swedish identity and traditional values, often blaming socialist predecessors.

While this approach may secure votes, it intensifies political divisions, thus hindering the effective resolution of these issues. It is imperative to prioritise unity and collaboration over divisive rhetoric.

Sweden's Crime and Justice Dilemma

Kristersson emphasises robust anti-crime measures, including expanded police authority and longer jail sentences. Despite its attractiveness, this tough-on-crime approach is ineffective and impractical.

Swedish criminologists show that a policy of increasing incarceration rates and singling out individuals with immigrant backgrounds is counterproductive.

They advocate for increased investment in Swedish social institutions rather than diminishing resources, for example by investing in schools to tackle gang-related crime in these communities.

In addition to the counterproductive nature of Kristersson's measures, the Swedish judicial system cannot implement these proposed actions. The Global Organised Crime Index highlights deficiencies including understaffing, authority challenges, growing corruption, and a need for more expertise in dealing with this relatively new phenomenon in Sweden.

Police in smaller municipalities are already struggling to exercise their existing authority. Without a well-functioning judicial system, Kristersson's tough-on-crime measures are futile.

Sweden's current challenges demand that we recognise the responsibility of successive governments in addressing the root causes of rising homicide rates. Past governments have neglected immigrant integration challenges since the 1990s.

The feelings of Nordic exceptionalism among citizens, characterised by a belief in the exceptional nature of Nordic countries, have contributed to ignoring issues arising from their welfare systems.

In the past, ongoing concerns such as segregation and persistent urban gang violence faced neglect because they challenged the Swedish self-image as a progressive model of equality and social engineering.

Kristersson has the chance to remedy these past mistakes by addressing the root causes of Sweden's rising homicide rates through a united effort. To reclaim its reputation as a model of egalitarianism, Sweden must prioritise unity, challenge the status quo, and engage in constructive social dialogue.

By doing so, it can move beyond divisive rhetoric and empty promises and embark on a path toward a more resilient and harmonious future.

A Unified Approach

To effectively combat the rising homicide rates in Sweden, a comprehensive approach is required. Finger-pointing immigrants, tightening immigration policies, and adopting a tough-on-crime stance are insufficient strategies that exacerbate rather than solve the problem.

Instead, Sweden must focus on combating segregation, investing in education, and strengthening the judicial system. Furthermore, Kristersson should prioritise unity and cooperation over fueling polarisation when addressing these challenges.

It is time for a nationwide effort to reclaim Sweden's reputation as a model of egalitarianism and social engineering.

Sources: Financial Times, Friedrich Ebert Foundation, Los Angeles Times, New Statesman, The Economist, The Guardian, Wall Street Journal

Written by Tobias Pardoen

November 2023

The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of MJPE or its Board. The designations employed in this publication and the presentation of material therein do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the MJPE concerning the legal status of any country, area or territory or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers.

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