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Fittja in Botkyrka, one of 22 'especially vulnerable' areas. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT
In an update to a list first introduced in 2015, police reduced the number of areas defined as “especially vulnerable” from 23 to 22.
The police define an “especially vulnerable area” as being “characterized by social issues and a criminal presence which has led to a widespread disinclination to participate in the judicial process and difficulties for the police to fulfil their mission”.
The Gårdsten neighbourhood in Gothenburg, among the 23 especially vulnerable areas identified two years ago, was moved to the less serious designation of “risk areas”, which are viewed as falling somewhere between “vulnerable” and “especially vulnerable”.
The “vulnerable” category is defined as “a geographically defined area characterized by a low socio-economic status where criminals have an impact on the local community”.
Additionally, the neighbourhoods of Smedby in Upplands Väsby and Hageby in Norrköping were removed from the list completely.
In announcing the updated list on Monday, National Operations Department (NOA) chief Mats Löfving said that there have been significant improvements within the designated areas.
“The relationships between residents and police have improved. We are seeing calmer environments, and fewer attacks on the police and other security personnel,” he said. “We can also see that residents are more willing to talk to the police and help in criminal investigations.”
“We still see problems, but the trends show that things are progressing,” he continued.
Local police in Botkyrka Municipality also reported that relations between residents and law enforcement are improving, even within the three distinct Botkyrka areas that remain on the list of especially vulnerable places.
“We have an improved knowledge of what's going on in those areas and a better picture of the situation,” local police officer Erik Åkerlund said.
Linda Staaf, the head of NOA's intelligence unit, said that the reason the areas have been dropped from the list is because “criminals there no longer have an impact, which is a fundamental criterion for being called a vulnerable area”.
“Compared to 2017, we generally see positive trends. There are some areas with negative trends but the overall picture is more positive than it was a couple of years ago,” she said. “One thing is that the police can better do their jobs [in the areas] and another is that we can tell that residents are more willing to tell us what they see and hear.”
While Gothenburg's Gårdsten area, Smedby in Upplands Väsby and Hageby in Norrköping were removed from the latest police list, the Storvreten area of Tumba was a new addition to the overview of 'vulnerable areas'.
Thus, the overall number of areas included in the report decreased from 61 to 60. The count in the first list, released in 2015, was 53.
The report also included ten “risk areas”. Three areas that were previously listed as the less serious “vulnerable” were moved to this category: Fornhöjden and Hovsjö in Södertälje and Rissne/Hallonbergen in Sundbyberg.
Although international media often report that Sweden has so-called “no-go zones”, police and emergency services have repeatedly rejected this claim, arguing that the vulnerable areas actually have a higher police presence, if anything.
That said, emergency services do often adapt their behaviour, for example by making sure that there is proper back-up, by entering the areas via alternative routes, or by reversing their vehicles into the areas in order to make sure they are able to leave quickly if needed. Emergency services have, for example, been exposed to threats, stone-throwing, or vandalism of their vehicles.
Sweden's 22 'especially vulnerable' areas, according to the police's 2019 report:
Rosengård söder om Amiralsgatan, Malmö
Södra Sofielund (Seved), Malmö
Tynnered/Grevgården/Opaltorget, Västra Frölunda