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Overseas Security Advisory Council
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Sweden 2020 Crime & Safety Report

This is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm. OSAC encourages travelers to use this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Sweden. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s country-specific page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Travel Advisory

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Sweden at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory System.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Crime Threats

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Stockholm as being a LOW-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. The general crime rate in Sweden is below the U.S. national average; however, the notion that foreign travelers are immune to crime is a common misconception. The prevalent rate of crime in major urban areas reflects that travelers are more susceptible to certain types of crime (mainly thefts) than national criminal statistics would indicate. Most crimes affecting foreign visitors are petty in nature. Most crimes involve the theft of personal property from vehicles, residences, and public areas. Travelers should be especially wary for petty thieves/pickpockets and should remain aware of distractions and other techniques used to divert attention. Robberies have occurred in high-traffic commercial areas. Pickpocketing and petty theft are common in/near major tourist attractions (e.g. Stockholm’s Old Town), at restaurants, hotel common areas, amusement parks, museums, bars, and on public transportation (including airports). Review OSAC’s report, All That You Should Leave Behind.

Sweden’s geographic locale and climate affect crime rates; crime (especially theft) tends to increase acutely in the summer when tourism, empty residences, and diminished police resources combine with extended periods of daylight. Criminal networks from neighboring Schengen countries are thought to influence the nature of criminal activity in Sweden, but it is unknown exactly how much influence these networks have.

Hotel breakfast rooms and lobbies attract professional, well-dressed thieves who blend in with guests and target purses/briefcases left unguarded. Review OSAC’s reports, Hotels: The Inns and Outs and Considerations for Hotel Security.

According to official Swedish statistics, the total number of reported crimes in 2019 was 1,540,000, which is a small decrease (-1,940) in reported crimes from the prior year. The largest crime category of 2019 was theft.

Sweden does not release official homicide statistics (and final statistics for all reported crimes) until the Spring. However, preliminary numbers indicate there was a slight decrease in homicides in 2019 with 108 confirmed homicides, compared to 113 in 2018.

Exercise caution when using ATMs. Inspect card insertion areas for modifications and skimming hardware. Use only reputable cash exchange outlets when withdrawing cash. Review OSAC’s reports, The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking Credit.

Low-level organized criminal groups, many associated with larger motorcycle gangs and organized crime elements from Eastern Europe, drive organized criminal activity. Small businesses have reported instances of extortion; however, larger, international companies and franchises have not.

Violent crimes (e.g. homicides, sexual assaults) do occur in Sweden. The majority occur in larger cities (e.g. Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö). The number of reported sexual assaults increased in 2019 by 6% compared to 2018, with 8,350 reports in 2019 compared to 7,843 in 2018. It is important to note that the statistics reflect only the number of crimes reported, and not the total number of actual crimes committed.

Based on media reporting and cumulative reports, violent crime continues to increase in urban locations across Sweden. Crimes involving explosives, hand grenades, and firearms have not specifically targeted U.S. private-sector organizations; investigations reflect that criminals usually direct these incidents against individuals known to the attackers or those active in criminal networks. Most explosions are purposely designed to not be casualty-producing events, but innocent bystanders have been hurt when picking up explosive devices that failed to detonate. Do not move or touch any suspicious item or unattended baggage, and report it to the local police.

In January 2020, an early morning explosion took place in a central Stockholm apartment building on Gyllenstiernsgatan. The police investigation is ongoing, but police reporting states that the explosion was a criminal act caused by an explosive device. The police describe the explosion to be the largest that has occurred in the Stockholm area in recent years, but no injuries occurred.

Cybersecurity Issues

Sweden defines computer fraud as any act using computers, the internet, internet devices, and internet services to defraud people, companies, or government agencies of money, revenue, or internet access. There was a 6% decrease of all fraud types in 2019 (a decrease of 15,500 reported cases since 2018). In 2019, Sweden re-categorized the different fraud types, so general statistics for only cybercrime are not available. In 2019, there were 128,000 reported instances of credit card fraud, and 27,300 reported instances of identity theft. Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics, Best Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, and Traveling with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Sweden has excellent transportation infrastructure. Sweden has a zero-tolerance policy regarding drinking and driving; it is illegal to drive after even one alcoholic drink. In the winter, ensure vehicles have proper winter tires and emergency roadside kits. Seat belts are mandatory for all passengers. Pedestrians have priority at all crosswalks. Headlights must be on; at dusk and when it is dark, dim them when meeting another car. Right turns on red are illegal. Do not use your horn unnecessarily. Trams always have priority in cities. On highways, you may drive on the shoulder to allow faster cars to pass.

It is illegal in Sweden to use a handheld cellphone or any other handheld communication equipment while operating a vehicle.

Many accidents involve wild animals. Watch for road signs indicating wild animals (moose, deer, etc.).

Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving and road safety abroad.

Public Transportation Conditions

Stockholm has an excellent public transportation system of buses, trams, subway (T-Bana), and commuter trains (i.e. Pendeltåg, Lidingöbanan). Storstockholms Lokaltrafik (SL) operates the bus and subway systems, and tickets are interchangeable. There are several ticket options when using public transportation. The SL website provides detailed information in English. Review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Stockholm as being a MEDIUM-threat location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Sweden’s political engagement abroad has not fostered homegrown domestic terrorist groups with a clear mandate/agenda to target Swedish infrastructure or government. However, the U.S. Embassy recognizes the possibility that unaffiliated/autonomous groups may conduct terrorist attacks.

Sweden’s National Center for Terrorist Threat Assessment (NCT)’s 2019 threat assessment for Sweden and Swedish interests abroad assesses that Islamist extremism is the greatest terrorist threat to Sweden. Sweden is a legitimate, but not prioritized, target for terrorist attacks by violence-promoting Islamist groups. There are operatives with the intent and capability to carry out terrorist attacks in Sweden.

In 2017, an ISIS sympathizer hijacked a truck and deliberately drove it into crowds along Drottninggatan (Queen Street) in central Stockholm before crashing through a corner of a department store. Five people died, and 14 others received serious injuries. Police considered the attack an act of terrorism. Authorities apprehended a 39-year old rejected asylum seeker from Uzbekistan. Uzbek authorities report that the individual had allegedly joined ISIS before the attack. He was sentenced in 2018 to life in prison (and deportation) under the Criminal Responsibility for Terrorist Offences Act on five counts of murder and 119 counts of attempted murder.

In December 2018, six people of Uzbek and Kyrgyz origin went on trial for terrorism related charges. Three of the suspects are charged with the preparation of terrorist crimes, and all six are charged with financing terrorism. In 2019, courts convicted five of the six on various charges, releasing the sixth.

The Swedish Security Service (SÄPO) remains concerned with the numbers of foreign terrorist fighters who have left Sweden to join violent extremist groups in Syria, and those who return to Sweden. In 2019, SÄPO continued to see a decrease in foreign fighters traveling from Sweden, likely because it remains difficult to travel to Syria. However, terrorism experts have warned about an increased risk of domestic terror attacks as would-be violent extremist travelers stay in the country and ISIS encourages actions at home.

Extreme right- and left-wing groups, as well as ethnic-based groups, have targeted one another in low-level violence, some of which commemorated certain anniversaries or was in retaliation for perceived attacks.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Civil Unrest

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Stockholm as being a LOW-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Sweden’s laws allow for peaceful demonstrations. in 2019, groups directed multiple demonstrations at the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm. All recent demonstrations near the U.S. Embassy have ended peacefully, with no arrests.

Travelers should recognize that peaceful demonstrations can turn violent unexpectedly and quickly, and they should avoid all demonstrations. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

Although Sweden is historically an ethnically homogeneous country, immigration in recent years—especially in terms of refugee and asylee populations—have changed the racial, religious, and ethnic makeup up many (especially urban) areas. These changes have led to some tension.

Sweden has experienced a significant rise in the number of asylum-seekers. The Swedish Migration Agency estimated that the country received approximately 163,000 asylum-seekers in 2015, the highest per capita in the EU. In 2015, Sweden instituted temporary border controls with Schengen countries in response to massive immigration flows. In 2016, the number of asylum seekers entering Sweden was approximately 30,000; 2017 reflected similar numbers with 25,666; and entries decreased even further in 2018 as only 21,502 individuals sought asylum in Sweden. In 2019 the decrease continued further with a total number of 20,293 asylum seekers.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Sweden experiences heavy rains, heavy snowfall, flash floods, and forest fires that have contributed to multiple injuries, deaths, and evacuations of residents.

Privacy Concerns

There are very strict privacy laws in Sweden that govern the release of personal information, especially criminal histories.

Personal Identity Concerns

Hate-related crimes continued in Sweden, with acts in 2019 directed at mosques, the Jewish community, asylum centers, and the immigrant community.

There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI events in Sweden. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+ travelers.

Accessibility to public facilities and transportation in Sweden is extensive. The Swedish Government actively funds programs promoting disability access to streets, public buildings, stores, restaurants, and public transportation. For more information on accessibility in Sweden, visit the Tourist Bureau’s website. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers with disabilities.

Drug-related Crimes

Drug trafficking is limited to low levels of domestic consumption/transit. This consists of cocaine from South America via Spain; heroin from Central Asia via Poland and the Baltics; methamphetamines from Poland; marijuana from Europe; and khat from the Horn of Africa (consumed by Sweden’s sizable Eritrean, Ethiopian, and Somali populations). Travelers can expect to see heavy drug use in/around major urban centers (e.g. near the central train station) -- especially the use of marijuana, which is illegal in Sweden. Cocaine and methamphetamines are prevalent in some nightclubs; however, narcotics do not seem to be a major precursor for violent crime.

Police Response

The emergency line in Sweden is 112. Local police non-emergency telephone is 114-14. Sweden’s law enforcement and security services are professional, fully capable, and outstanding U.S. law enforcement partners.  For local first responders, refer to the Embassy’s Emergency Assistance page.

Police harassment is exceptionally rare; however, if U.S. travelers experience police detainment or harassment, they should immediately call the U.S. Embassy.

Travelers who are victims of crime should expect a police response commensurate with the criticality of the incident. For instance, a victim of a violent crime can expect rapid, expert support/investigation. Victims of purse snatching, for example, should expect formal, polite assistance but possibly lengthy delays in investigation or resolution. U.S. national victims of crime should first contact local police authorities by dialing 112. Once they have contacted local authorities, they should then contact the U.S. Embassy at +46 (8) 785-5300. Download the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.

Police/Security Agencies

Swedish Police Authority: The mission of the Polisen is to reduce crime, increase public safety, and solve crimes. The police are charged with preventing crime, monitoring public order and safety, conducting reconnaissance, and carrying out criminal investigations.

Swedish Security Service (SÄPO): The Swedish Security Service prevents and detects offences against national security, fights terrorism, and protects the central government.

Medical Emergencies

Medical care in Sweden is comparable to that found in the United States. Non-residents must pay their own medical costs in full. Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. The U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling internationally. Review the State Departments webpage on insurance overseas. Find contact information for available medical services and available air ambulance services on the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.

The emergency line in Sweden is 112. Ambulance services are widely available.Emergency helicopters are available in Stockholm County.

Stringent Swedish customs regulations prohibit the shipment of drugs to Sweden. Local physicians may not prescribe the quantities or dosages a U.S. doctor would. Most pharmacies (Apotek) are open during normal shopping hours, but major cities will have a 24-hour pharmacy.

Review OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way, Traveling with Medication, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad.

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Sweden.

OSAC Country Council Information

The Country Council in Stockholm is active, meeting once a year. Contact OSAC’s Europe team for more information.

U.S. Embassy Contact Information

Dag Hammarskjölds Väg 31, 115 89 Stockholm

Regular business hours: Monday – Friday, 0800-1630 (closed Saturday and Sunday)

Embassy Operator: +46-8-783-5300; Marine Post One: +46-8-783-5310

Website: http://se.usembassy.gov/

Helpful Information

Before you travel, consider the following resources:

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