Sweden to crack down on gang crime with tougher sentences for young people

The Swedish Justice Minister announced that he is pushing for tougher sentences for young offenders in a bid to combat a rising wave of gang violence.

Sweden to crack down on gang crime with tougher sentences for young people
Swedish Justice Minister Morgan Johansson. Photo: Ali Lorestani/TT

The government will seek parliamentary approval to abolish the automatic reduction of sentences for defendants aged 18-20 convicted of serious crimes, such as murder, manslaughter, rape, armed robbery and gun crime, said Justice Minister Morgan Johansson.

“It’s better to try to target the crimes committed by those who do these crimes in a systematic way and live a criminal lifestyle,” Johansson told a press conference.

Sweden has been struggling for several years to deal with the rise of criminal gangs and the resulting increase in fatal shootings and score-settling in an otherwise peaceful country.

Sweden has the highest number of deadly shootings per capita in a report about European countries published in May by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention.

In 2020, the country of just over 10 million people registered more than 360 incidents involving firearms, with 47 deaths and 117 injuries. Most of the victims and perpetrators were under the age of 30.

In the latest such incident, two children, aged five and six, were wounded by stray bullets while playing in the neighbourhood of Visättra in southern Stockholm over the weekend in what is believed to have been a gang-related shooting.

In early July, a police officer was killed in a shooting in Gothenburg, although he was not believed to have been the intended target.

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Swedish opposition proposes ‘rapid tests for ADHD’ to cut gang crime

The Moderate Party in Stockholm has called for children in so called "vulnerable areas" to be given rapid tests for ADHD to increase treatment and cut gang crime.

Swedish opposition proposes 'rapid tests for ADHD' to cut gang crime

In a press release, the party proposed that treating more children in troubled city areas would help prevent gang crime, given that “people with ADHD diagnoses are “significantly over-represented in the country’s jails”. 

The idea is that children in so-called “vulnerable areas”, which in Sweden normally have a high majority of first and second-generation generation immigrants, will be given “simpler, voluntary tests”, which would screen for ADHD, with those suspected of having the neuropsychiatric disorder then put forward for proper evaluations to be given by a child psychiatrist. 

“The quicker you can put in place measures, the better the outcomes,” says Irene Svenonius, the party’s leader in the municipality, of ADHD treatment, claiming that children in Sweden with an immigrant background were less likely to be medicated for ADHD than other children in Sweden. 

In the press release, the party said that there were “significant differences in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD within Stockholm country”, with Swedish-born children receiving diagnosis and treatment to a higher extent, and with ADHD “with the greatest probability” underdiagnosed in vulnerable areas. 

At a press conference, the party’s justice spokesman Johan Forsell, said that identifying children with ADHD in this areas would help fight gang crime. 

“We need to find these children, and that is going to help prevent crime,” he said. 

Sweden’s climate minister Annika Strandhäll accused the Moderates of wanting to “medicate away criminality”. 

Lotta Häyrynen, editor of the trade union-backed comment site Nya Mitten, pointed out that the Moderates’s claim to want to help children with neuropsychiatric diagnoses in vulnerable areas would be more credible if they had not closed down seven child and youth psychiatry units. 

The Moderate Party MP and debater Hanif Bali complained about the opposition from left-wing commentators and politicians.

“My spontaneous guess would have been that the Left would have thought it was enormously unjust that three times so many immigrant children are not getting a diagnosis or treatment compared to pure-Swedish children,” he said. “Their hate for the Right is stronger than their care for the children. 

Swedish vocab: brottsförebyggande – preventative of crime