In the southern Swedish city of Landskrona -- a place of roughly 35,000 inhabitants -- since December 2018, there have been seven explosions or bombings. In August, the entrance to Landskrona's city hall (pictured) was blown up. (Image source: Mrkommun/Wikimedia Commons)
"Löfven, you have lost control of Sweden," the leader of the largest opposition party, the center-right Moderate Party, Ulf Kristersson, recently wrote in an article in the daily newspaper Aftonbladet, in which he criticized Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven for failing to solve some of Sweden's biggest problems. According to Kristersson:
"Two areas that we [the Moderate Party] highly prioritize are law and order and integration. Because Sweden's biggest problems are there now.
"Last year, 306 shootings occurred and 45 people were shot dead. According to the police, the number of people killed has doubled since 2014. During the same period, the number of people who have been subjected to sexual abuse has tripled according to BRÅ [the Swedish Crime Prevention Council]...
"Concrete reforms are necessary. We have proposed them - the Social Democrats say no...
At the same time, we have an integration crisis: More than half of all the unemployed are born outside of Sweden. In our exclusion areas, [utanförskapsområden] there are schools where not even half of the students pass all subjects... Many children born in Sweden hardly speak Swedish, and there is extensive repression [in the name of] honor culture. Here too we have called for reforms, but the Social Democrats say no.
"Integration and immigration are connected. Therefore, a long-term and strict immigration policy is required. Temporary residence permits and requirements of financial self-sufficiency for family reunification should be the main rule.
"Requirements for knowledge of Swedish and financial self-sufficiency [should be conditions] for a permanent residence permit."
Kristersson's criticism demonstrates that the political mainstream in Sweden is fully cognizant of the country's fundamental problems. This criticism is especially significant coming from the Moderate Party: Kristersson's predecessor, Frederik Reinfeldt, who was prime minister of Sweden from 2006 to 2014 and chairman of the Moderate Party from 2003 to 2015, did not share these concerns. In 2014, Reinfeldt urged Swedes to "Open your hearts" to the refugees of the world.
"Now I ask the Swedish people to be patient with this. To have solidarity with the outside world... In the long run we create a better world in this way... It will cost money, we will not be able to afford so much else, but [these are] really people who are fleeing for their lives."
Kristersson, unlike the current Swedish government, appears to have woken up to the realities of Sweden.
One of the realities, according to the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) -- the state authority for community protection and preparedness -- is that terrorism is now a threat everywhere in Sweden, and therefore even smaller municipalities need to be prepared for terrorist acts to occur.
"First of all," said Jonas Eriksson, who is responsible for security in the public environment at MSB, "you have to be aware that this can happen in smaller cities... Then you have to think about what is in the municipality that can be vulnerable and sensitive." The statement came after police intercepted a potential terrorist act in the city of Östersund in August. The suspect was trying to drive into a crowd and run people over, according to Aftonbladet. He is also being investigated for links to Rakhmat Akilov, a terrorist who was convicted of killing five people by plowing a truck into a department store in central Stockholm in April 2017.
From the beginning of 2019 to the end of July, there were 120 bombings in Sweden, according to police statistics. The figure represents an increase of 45% over the same period last year, when 83 bombings took place. The south of Sweden has been particularly badly hit, with 44 bombings. "At present, one can only really speculate on the reasons why. We have an increased problem with crime and exclusion," said Petra Stenkula, chief investigator at Police Region south. "It is possible that the supply of dynamite is good, whereas the supply is somewhat more limited when it comes to weapons today compared to before."
In the southern Swedish city of Landskrona alone -- a place of roughly 35,000 inhabitants -- since December 2018, there have been seven explosions or bombings. In August, the entrance to Landskrona's city hall was blown up.
"Those who do this want to disrupt organized society; we will not let that happen", said municipal council member Torkild Strandberg from the Liberal Party.
In August, another city in the south of Sweden, Linköping, experienced its second blast this year. Police found an object that they suspected was explosives. When it was destroyed by the national bomb protection squad, a powerful explosion occurred. It destroyed a police storehouse and damaged several other buildings. In early June, also in Linköping, an explosion blasted through a residential building. Miraculously, no one was killed, but 20 people were wounded. The police suspect that the incident was gang-related.
The constant insecurity that these incidents produce means that the demand for security guards and other security services has dramatically increased. Both private companies and municipalities have been asking to hire more security guards. According to Hans Tjernström, press manager at the Swedish Trade Association, an average grocery store spends around 600,000 kronor ($62,000) per year on guards and other items that have to do with security. According to a security industry source, over the next three years, security companies will need to recruit 5,300 more employees.
Rape and sexual assault also continue apace. In Uppsala alone, a picturesque Swedish university town, where 80% of girls do not feel safe in the city center, four rapes or attempted rapes took place in early August within four days. In Stockholm, two rapes occurred during the "We are Stockholm" youth festival in August, in addition to about a dozen other sexual offenses. At the "Piteå Dances and Laughs" summer festival in Piteå, another rape, involving ten men, took place.
In a recent op-ed in Aftonbladet, a member of parliament for the Moderate Party, Josefin Malmqvist, appealed to Morgan Johansson, who serves as Minister of Justice and Minister for Migration Policy, to "Stop the rapes – you are letting the women down." In her article, Malmqvist wrote:
"Exposure to sexual crimes has risen sharply during Morgan Johansson's (S) time as Minister of Justice: for the third consecutive year, the number of reported rapes in 2018 increased to 20 reported rapes per day. So far this year, the number of reported rapes has increased by 14 percent... In Sweden -- one of the world's most equal countries -- women's freedom is diminishing. That women do not have the same opportunity to move freely in the streets and squares without having to worry about being exposed to crime, is a serious restriction on women's freedom and self-determination. While more women are reporting sexual offenses, the rate of resolved rapes is still frighteningly low. A review of the rapes reported in recent years shows that only 5 out of 100 reported rapes lead to conviction."
"Now is the time to stop talking and start acting. The Moderate Party and the Christian Democrats' budget raised funding for the police, but more needs to be done. In May 2018, a majority in Parliament approved the Moderate Party's motion to tighten the penalty for rape. Since then, nothing has happened. It is high time for the Minister of Justice (S) to begin acting for Sweden's women."
Another population group that has been suffering under the lack of law and order in Sweden is children. According to BRÅ, there has been a significant increase in robberies against young people in recent years. In just a few years, the number of reports of robberies against people under 18 has significantly increased, from 1,084 reported robberies in 2015 to 1,896 in 2018 -- an increase of 75%. There have already been 1,247 reports of robberies against young people in 2019 so far. According to Sven Granath, a criminologist with the Swedish police, the increase in robberies against young people could be because it has become harder to rob older people or to steal from shops. "It has become harder and then they go after a group that cannot protect itself as well. They also have what other youths want, such as mopeds, phones and jewelry" said Granath.
It would appear that Prime Minister Löfven has indeed lost control of Sweden.
John Richardson is a researcher based in the United States.