Bomb rattles home of Swedish prison worker

An explosive device detonated on the steps of the home of an employee of the Swedish prison service early Tuesday morning in what is being described as a threat against the man’s family.

Bomb rattles home of Swedish prison worker

The man has been threatened previously, but Tuesday’s blast is being described by the union representing employees of the Swedish Prison and Probation Service (Kriminalvården) as one the most serious incidents in recent memory.

“Threats are nothing unusual within the prison system. It’s relatively common for threats to be uttered in the heat of the moment in connection with news of a transfer, a denied request, or something similar,” said Roal Nilssen, ombudsman the SEKO union, to the TT news agency.

“But it’s rare that someone goes from words to action. This was also directed at the man’s private life, with a risk that his family could be injured.”

The explosion, which occurred at 2.20am at the man’s home in the Malmö suburb of Oxie in southern Sweden, woke up the man, his wife, and his three children. They looked outside, but didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.

They later discovered that the door on the backside of the house had been severely damaged by an explosive device which had been left on the top step.

The man has previously been threatened, but police refused to explain how or why.

According to the county police, investigators have recovered certain pieces of evidence from the blast site which will be analysed further.

An official from the Swedish corrections service also had little to say about the matter.

“It’s naturally very tragic and upsetting in every way, but we’re waiting for the police’s investigation and before then it’s hard to assess what has happened,” the head of Prison and Probation Service in Malmö,

Joachim Moberg, told TT.

According to the local Skånska Dagbladet newspaper, the one of the man’s children served as a witness in an assault trial in which both the victim and the witness changed their testimony. The accused was eventually acquitted.

While the investigation continues, J B Cederholm of the Skåne county police told the newspaper it’s likely the blast was meant to scare the man and his family.

“Our understanding is that the explosive device was directed against the family,” he told the newspaper.

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US criminologist lauds Malmö for anti-gang success

The US criminologist behind the anti-gang strategy designed to reduce the number of shootings and explosions in Malmö has credited the city and its police for the "utterly pragmatic, very professional, very focused" way they have put his ideas into practice.

US criminologist lauds Malmö for anti-gang success
Johan Nilsson/TT

In an online seminar with Malmö mayor Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh, David Kennedy, a professor at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said implementing his Group Violence Intervention (GVI) strategy had gone extremely smoothly in the city.

“What really stands out about the Malmö experience is contrary to most of the places we work,” he said. “They made their own assessment of their situation on the ground, they looked at the intervention logic, they decided it made sense, and then, in a very rapid, focused and business-like fashion, they figured out how to do the work.”

He said that this contrasted with police and other authorities in most cities who attempt to implement the strategy, who tend to end up “dragging their feet”, “having huge amounts of political infighting”, and coming up with reasons why their city is too different from other cities where the strategy has been a success.

Malmö’s Sluta Skjut (Stop Shooting) pilot scheme was extended to a three-year programme this January, after its launch in 2018 coincided with a reduction in the number of shootings and explosions in the city.

“We think it’s a good medicine for Malmö for breaking the negative trend that we had,” Malmö police chief Stefan Sintéus said, pointing to the fall from 65 shootings in 2017 to 20 in 2020, and in explosions from 62 in 2017 to 17 in 2020.

A graph from Malmö police showing the reduction in the number of shootings from 2017 to 2020. Graph: Malmö Police
A graph from Malmö police showing the reduction in the number of explosions in the city between 2017 and 2020. Graph: Malmö Police


In their second evaluation of the programme, published last month, Anna-Karin Ivert, Caroline Mellgren, and Karin Svanberg, three criminologists from Malmö University, reported that violent crime had declined significantly since the program came into force, and said that it was possible that the Sluta Skjut program was partly responsible, although it was difficult to judge exactly to what extent. 

The number of shootings had already started to decline before the scheme was launched, and in November 2019, Sweden’s national police launched Operation Rimfrost, a six-month crackdown on gang crime, which saw Malmö police reinforced by officers from across Sweden.

But Kennedy said he had “very little sympathy” for criminologists critical of the police’s decision to launch such a massive operation at the same time as Sluta Skjut, making it near impossible to evaluate the programme.

“Evaluation is there to improve public policy, public policy is not there to provide the basis for for sophisticated evaluation methodology,” he argued.

“When people with jobs to do, feel that they need to do things in the name of public safety, they should follow their professional, legal and moral judgement. Not doing something to save lives, because it’s going to create evaluation issues, I think, is simply privileging social science in a way that it doesn’t deserve.”

US criminologist David Kennedy partaking in the meeting. Photo: Richard Orange

Sluta Skjut has been based around so-called ‘call-ins’, in which known gang members on probation are asked to attend meetings, where law enforcement officials warn them that if shootings and explosions continue, they and the groups around them will be subject to intense focus from police.

At the same time, social workers and other actors in civil society offer help in leaving gang life.

Of the 250-300 young men who have been involved in the project, about 40 have been sent to prison, while 49 have joined Malmö’s ‘defector’ programme, which helps individuals leave gangs.

Kennedy warned not to focus too much on the number of those involved in the scheme who start to work with social services on leaving gang life.

“What we find in in practice is that most of the impact of this approach doesn’t come either because people go to prison or because they take services and leave gang life,” he said.

“Most of the impact comes from people simply putting their guns down and no longer being violent.”

“We think of the options as continuing to be extremely dangerous, or completely turning one’s life around. That’s not realistic in practice. Most of us don’t change that dramatically ever in our lives.”

He stressed the importance of informal social control in his method, reaching those who gang members love and respect, and encouraging them to put pressure on gang members to abstain from gun violence.

“We all care more about our mothers than we care about the police, and it turns out that if you can find the guy that this very high risk, very dangerous person respects – literally, you know, little old ladies will go up to him and get his attention and tell him to behave himself. And he will.”