Analysis: Gang crime looms over Swedish election as shooting spree spreads

  • Rampant gang crime is a headache for center-left government
  • 2022 is set to be the worst year for gang violence
  • Crime outweighs voter concerns ahead of Sept. 11 elections

OREBRO, Aug. 12 (Reuters) – Three young men were shot dead in a small neighborhood in the town of Orebro in eight days in May, outweighing voter concerns ahead of next month’s elections.

The killing took place in Valberga, a cluster of low-rise brick houses about two miles (3 km) from the picturesque city center of Orebro in central Sweden. About 3,300 people live in the district, many of whom are of Syrian descent who are Christians.

It is one of 61 neighborhoods in Sweden, all of which have high immigration rates and are listed by police as areas at risk of increasing gang violence. The government says gang crime fueled by the drug trade is linked to poor integration in Sweden’s large immigrant community.

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“I live all over Orebro and used to love this neighborhood, but now I think I have to get out of here,” said Asa Ahlgren, 65, a retired social worker. Told.

Ahlgren, a family friend of the first victim, a 30-year-old man from the Syrian community, whose apartment overlooks the car park where he was killed.

Police have not released the name of the victim, but said they were not previously linked to the crime.

Three execution-style murders in Orebro, home to about 130,000 people, appear to be gang-related, but no suspects have been detained, according to police. He declined to provide further details, citing an ongoing investigation.

Gang crime is nothing new to Sweden.

Of the 22 European countries with comparable data, only Croatia had the highest number of gun deaths per capita in the past four years, according to a report from the Swedish National Crime Prevention Council last year. . This is in stark contrast to her 20 years ago, when Sweden was nearing the bottom. . read more

Gun violence, previously largely confined to immigrant-dominated suburbs of Sweden’s three largest cities – Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö – has become increasingly prevalent in small towns in recent months. .

Police say 44 people have been shot dead in Sweden so far this year, most of them suspected of gang crimes. That equates to his 46 for the entirety of 2021.

And more than half of the shootings this year took place outside the three major cities, up from an average of about 35% in recent years.

Orebro police chief superintendent Matthias Forsten said the number of gangs in the town had increased from 10 to 15 and they were becoming much more violent. He said he had some connection with

“Maybe 10 years ago we were punching someone, then we started shooting each other in the leg. Now we’re shooting each other in the head.”

Violence climbed to the top of voters’ concerns for the first time since polls began, with 41% saying crime was their top concern, according to this year’s report from the University of Gothenburg’s Society Opinion and Media Institute. .

This poses a problem for Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats, who are seeking a third consecutive term in the September 11 elections.

Despite tougher gun laws and additional resources for the police, the Social Democrats were unable to stem the rise in gang crime during their eight years in power.

“I haven’t fully made up my mind yet, but for the first time in a long time I’m leaning towards not voting for the Social Democrats,” said Niklas Anderson, 49, a construction worker in Orebro. “I think we might need a new idea to stop the gang. We were too naive.”

The centre-left coalition of the Social Democrats, the Greens, the Left and the Centrist Party is tied in pre-election polls with the Center-Right, which is made up of the Moderates, the Christian Democrats, the Liberal Party and the Centrist Party. . Swedish Democratic Party.

But according to a Novus poll in June, most voters believe the moderates in the opposition have the best policies for law and order, and the far-right nationalist Swedish Democrats on immigration. We support a strict policy.

“Violence and crime are definitely government weaknesses,” said Nicholas Eylott, an associate professor of political science at Sodertone College.

increase in death toll

Police have cited social exclusion, lack of integration, a widening gap between rich and poor, and increased drug use as underlying causes of the increase in violence.

Center-left and center-right blocs, meanwhile, are competing to propose tougher measures to counter gangsters.

Justice Minister Morgan Johansson, a Social Democrat, told Reuters that “organized crime has taken hold in Sweden in the last 20 years like never before and is closely linked to drug trafficking.”

Governments have introduced or proposed a range of new measures, including hiring more police, making it easier to monitor criminal suspects electronically, and tougher penalties for violent crimes and gun possession. I want more opposition.

Sweden’s Democrats have made voters nervous by blaming immigration and the failure to integrate many of the two million “new Swedes” who arrived in the past two decades. rice field.

They accuse past and present prime ministers, including former right-wing leader Fredrik Reinfeldt and Social Democrat Magdalena Anderson, of what they call irresponsible immigration policies. read more

“Fredrik Reinfeldt brought them here, Magdalena Andersson will benefit them, and the Swedish Democratic Party is going to lock them up and kick them out of the country,” Swedish Democratic Party leader Jimmy Akesson said in a recent speech. said in

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson admitted this spring that Sweden has failed to integrate the huge number of immigrants it has received over the past two decades, leading to parallel societies and gang violence. read more

About 20% of Sweden’s 10.5 million inhabitants were born abroad, with Syrians being the largest single group, according to government statistics.

In addition to sending asylum seekers convicted of crimes back to their home countries, Democrats in Sweden want a wider initiative to send migrants back by cutting economic benefits and encouraging them to leave. is.

In Varberga, Asa Ahlgren is still counting the costs of the violence that shocked neighbors.

“He was going to get married next month,” she said, looking at the dried flowers that mark where the first victim was killed. “It’s such a tragedy.”

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Reported by Johan Ahlander and Simon Johnson.Editing by Niklas Pollard and Daniel Flynn

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles. Analysis: Gang crime looms over Swedish election as shooting spree spreads

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