Amid Violent Crime Wave, Sweden Takes Unusual Step

Military will be deployed to help police rein in gangs
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 2, 2023 1:38 PM CDT
Amid Violent Crime Wave, Sweden Takes Unusual Step
Police stand after a man was shot dead and another person was injured in Jordbro, south of Stockholm, early Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023. Three people were killed in separate incidents in Sweden as deadly violence linked to a feud between criminal gangs escalated.   (Nils Petter Nilsson/TT News Agency via AP)

Sweden's prime minister says the military will assist the police with some duties to help deal with an unprecedented crime wave that has shocked the Scandinavian country with almost daily shootings and bombings. Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said his center-right government will announce proposals this week for how the armed forces would work with police, reports the AP. The country's national police chief, Anders Thornberg, clarified that members of the armed forces won't be given "direct" policing tasks. Still, getting the military involved in crime-fighting in any capacity would be a highly unusual step for Sweden, underscoring the severity of the gang violence that claimed a dozen lives across the country last month, including teenagers and innocent bystanders.

"The police cannot do all the work themselves," Kristersson said after a meeting with the heads of the armed forces and the national police. The prime minister noted that the country's military already is preoccupied with ensuring readiness because of the war in Ukraine. But he said the armed forces could perhaps help the national police with knowledge of explosives, helicopter logistics, and analyses, and that this could be done within the country's existing laws. Sweden has grappled with gang violence for years, but the surge in shootings and bombings in September has been exceptional. Three people were killed in recent days in separate attacks with suspected links to criminal gangs, which often recruit teenagers in disadvantaged immigrant neighborhoods to carry out hits.

Kristersson said Sweden's laws need to be tightened to counter the recruitment of young people into gangs, and that he believed there was a majority in the Swedish parliament to make appropriate changes. More than 60 people died in shootings last year in Sweden, the highest figure on record. This year is on track to be the same or worse. Authorities have linked the latest surge in violence to a feud between rival factions of international criminal gangs.

(More gang violence stories.)

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