Segregation behind gang-related shootings, bombings in Sweden: Expert
Since the beginning of January, around 30 serious violent crimes have already been committed in the Swedish capital Stockholm, including shootings and detonations of explosives, all of which are said to be the result of gang warfare.
Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson called those responsible for the recent increase in gang-related crimes “domestic terrorists of our time”.
“People are blowing up and shooting each other,” Hanna Paradis, a Stockholm police officer, told reporters after a fatal shooting last week.
In 2022, the number of fatal shootings in Sweden increased to 63, an increase of 40% from the previous year. It also surpassed the country’s previous record of 47 fatalities in 2020, which was also a European record, according to official figures from the Crime Prevention Council.
Ethnic and economic segregation a key factor in recruiting young people
The number of convictions is relatively low in the country, with only one in four cases resulting in a conviction in 2022, where a total of 388 shootings occurred. Criminologists believe this encourages more young people to join gangs.
Generally speaking, older gang members recruit teenagers from vulnerable areas to commit shootings, as under 18s only risk being placed in youth detention for a maximum of four years. After police intervention in gang violence in January, police Paradis said half of the suspects were minors.
Rene Leon Rosales, researcher at Stockholm’s Multicultural Center, told Anadolu that it is impossible to talk about young people’s involvement in gangs without looking at areas of ethnic and economic segregation in Sweden.
“We really have serious segregation patterns in our cities that are linked to politics, housing policy. During the last (few) decades in Sweden, we have produced expensive apartments that you have to buy for really big money, which really exclude large parts of the Swedish public from certain areas, says Rosales, whose area of expertise is segregation and racialization of young people.
But it’s not just the housing system that causes segregation, he said, pointing to the “market-driven” school system, where the number of public schools has declined due to privatization.
“So there is really unfair competition that has led to a higher degree of segregation between different schools. The fact that you have a lot of kids today who don’t really see any other alternative to making money, then this must also be related to this kind of school system, Rosales added.
No longer the most equal society
Rosales believes that when there are neighborhoods that are the direct result of economic and educational segregation, the problem becomes deeper and more difficult to solve.
“In some neighborhoods you have a higher concentration of people with precarious lives, precarious work, newly arrived migrants, people who are unemployed, people who don’t speak the language,” he said.
“When you combine these with the school system in the country, in some schools, you will have high concentrations of children who have parents with very precarious lives. Of course not all. So there is a systematic segregation of children with different life conditions and life opportunities.”
As the gap between the segments of society widens further, the core of the issue must be addressed to prevent it from getting worse, he said.
“In the 1980s, Sweden was known as one of the most equal societies in the world. That is no longer the case,” the researcher claimed.
“Sweden is now known as one of the countries where capital accumulation among the richest is so high and tops the list in the world. At the same time, we have a population in society that is racialized as non-white, i.e. is very poor. As we know is to be poor a social factor, being poor is related to what you have around you.
“Yes, we have a big problem with shootings, it’s connected to the fact that people here do a lot of drugs. But it’s not the people from these segregated neighborhoods that make this business go around, and the problem is completely connected to the fact that we have a very segregated society.”
While the trend of violence continues apace, the Swedish government is in the process of introducing new laws and severe penalties to address the issue.
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