Violent crime is becoming common in Sweden, shocking residents of the famously placid Scandinavian nation, where horrific acts of violence have become “all too familiar,” according to Common Sense Media, part of a Swedish nonprofit organization.
Real Clear Investigations by John R. Lott Jr. & James Varney Since 2018, Swedish authorities have recorded an estimated 500 bombings, while what they describe as gang shootings have become increasingly common. The country reported a record 124 homicides in 2020 and many residents were shocked in April when violent riots injured more than 100 police officers.
But Sweden’s crime spike is not an anomaly in Europe, as homicides have risen during the last decade across the European Union, from Hungary and Germany to Denmark and Finland. An analysis of EU and United Nations crime data by RealClearInvestigations shows that, as in Sweden, the broader crime wave is strongly correlated with immigration.
Over the 10 years from 2012 to 2021, about 41 million people (a majority of them from Muslim countries) immigrated to the European Union, and of those about 3.8 million, over 9%, are estimated to have done so illegally. Sweden’s largely legal influx of newcomers averaged nearly 130,000 a year from 2012 to 2019, before the country began curtailing immigration in 2020.
Former Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has said the country’s growing problems of Muslim gangs and violence are due to its failure to integrate foreign-born residents, whose numbers have doubled during the last two decades to about two million people (or almost 20% of the total population).
Sweden’s intelligence chief, Linda H. Staaf, told the BBC in 2019 that many of the Muslim perpetrators of crime share a similar profile. “They have grown up in Sweden and they are from socio-economically weak groups, socio-economically weak areas, and many are perhaps second- or third-generation Muslim immigrants,” she said.
The three areas most often mentioned as having high rates of Muslim gang activities are the suburbs of Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmo.
RCI collected homicide data for the European Union from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for 11 years, from 2010 to 2020, and compared it to rising percentages of each country’s foreign-born population. Even after accounting for variations among countries, the data show that each one percentage point increase in immigrant population is associated with a 3.6 percent increase in the homicide rate.
“These results are consistent with other studies in various European countries showing that immigrants – as a group – commit crime at higher rates than the native-born population,” said Tino Sanandaji of the Institute for Economic and Business History Research in Sweden.
Homicides across the EU rose by about 8% between 2019 and 2020, with Germany and Hungary experiencing 25% increases. Sweden’s rose by 11%. Rising crime emerged as a key political issue there and elsewhere, contributing to September victories in Sweden and Italy by more conservative parties that made crime a key plank in their platforms.
It remains true that the vast majority of foreign-born residents and their children are not engaged in crime, but the evidence shows many of the victims of crime are also newcomers. In some instances, they have been victimized by native-born residents who resent their presence, and criminologists say this backlash should be classified as immigration-related crime. The violent riots that occurred across Sweden in April, for example, occurred after a Swedish-Danish anti-Islamist and his followers burned the quran at a rally.
European media reports and government spokespeople are often circumspect about the problem. They repeatedly attribute much of the crime to “gangs,” the membership of which is rarely spelled out, and “gun violence” among unlabeled perpetrators.
Until recently, Sweden’s Crime Prevention Agency had not offered a comprehensive look at the issue since 2005. In October, however, the agency acknowledged that Sweden ranks “very high” in homicides when compared with other European nations, with a murder rate of 4 per million as opposed to the continent’s 1.6 per million.
In 2020, Swedish sociology professor Göran Adamson published a crime study showing an unmistakable link to immigration. It concluded that from 2002 to 2017, 58% of criminal suspects in Sweden were immigrants. That figure rose for murder, attempted murder, and manslaughter, where immigrants were identified as suspects in 73% of the cases, and robberies, in which immigrants were suspects in 70% of the cases.
Adamson told RCI that while members of some immigrant groups, such as Vietnamese, were less prone to commit crimes compared with native Swedes, Muslims such as those from the Middle East and Africa – regions that account for most of the immigration to Sweden – were much more likely to do so. Overall, Adamson’s study concluded that Sweden’s murder rate had quadrupled due to Muslim immigration. Consequently, he said, he found RCI’s statistical analysis to be “believable.”
Researchers in Denmark reached similar conclusions about Muslim immigration and crime. An index shows that crime in 2020 was 51% higher among male immigrants and 149% higher among male offspring with a non-Western background than among the entire male population.
In Norway and Finland, too, higher incidence of crime is also found in Muslim immigrant populations, according to recent research. Similar data on the citizenship status of people arrested or in jail is rarely collected in the U.S. One state where data is collected, Texas, shows that illegal aliens are convicted of homicide 32% more frequently than the rest of the Texas population. The rate for sexual assault is 91% higher.
Shootings in Sweden have begun to spill out from Stockholm into smaller cities and towns, although, as in the U.S., they tend to be concentrated in certain neighborhoods. In that sense, immigrants are most often the victims as well as the perpetrators of much of the growing violence.
“Over the last decades those who commit crimes are increasingly clustered both geographically and socially,” Adamson’s study found. “The risk of ending up a crime victim is getting more and more unevenly distributed.”
Such findings have percolated through Scandinavian political debates, with candidates on the right making rising Muslim immigrant crime a centerpiece of their 2022 campaigns. On the progressive left, critics tend to dismiss such statistical studies as “racist.”
Swedish officials have sought to deflect attention from the findings, with the Foreign Ministry pointing out in September that most immigrants are not criminals. Yet at the same time they insisted immigrants were not responsible for surging crime reports, they acknowledged non-native born people were suspected of crimes at a rate 2.5 times higherthan native-born Swedes.
Voters have reacted accordingly. Until this year, the Social Democratic Party had dominated politics in Sweden, ruling for almost a half a century, from 1932 to 1976, and holding power again from 2014 to 2022.
But it was toppled in September, when voters elected a right-of-center coalition made up of the right-wing Sweden Democrats and other right-of-center parties. Ulf Kristersson, the leader of the Moderate Party, was named prime minister on October 17.
In his study, Adamson urged Swedes to take a clear-eyed approach to what is happening, arguing that viewing things through a politically sensitive, multicultural lens clouds the picture and undermines policy approaches that could address the problem.
“Social democratic views of the 1960s are now considered far right-wing – a psychological trauma as if straight out of an Ingmar Bergman movie,” Adamson wrote, adding that “anti-intellectualism has defined Swedish migration discourse for decades.”