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Sweden 2014 Crime and Safety Report

Europe > Sweden; Europe > Sweden > Stockholm

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Sweden enjoys a reputation as a country with a low crime rate. The notion that foreign travelers are immune to crime is a common misconception, and, in fact, the prevalent rate of crime in major urban areas of Sweden makes travelers more susceptible to certain kinds of crime, such as mugging, vehicle theft, and credit card fraud, than national criminal statistics would indicate. Sweden’s geographic locale and climate both affect crime rates, as crime tends to increase acutely in summer months when police vacations, tourism, and increased outdoor activity contribute to a spike in reported crime. 

Crime Threats 

Robberies, according to National Council for Crime Prevention statistics, occur infrequently – or are at least rarely reported. The recent numbers of 8,360 reported robberies in 2013 suggest a decrease of nine percent from 2012. 

There were a total of 85,200 burglaries reported in Sweden in 2013, the equivalent of a decline of approximately three percent. Compared to last year, the number of house burglaries (21,000) slightly dropped because of a decrease of targeted houses. In the meantime, the number of burglaries in apartments has remained constant. Traditionally, the summer months have shown a peak in the number of burglaries. Over the past 10 years, however, the trend has changed toward a main peak in November, followed by October and December. 

In 2013, pickpocketing rose to 54,700, an increase of almost three percent in reported incidents. This is largely attributed to foreign gangs operating in crowded areas, specifically in the summer months when tourists are targeted. 

Statistics indicate that the number of homicides average about 90 per year and has for the past 30 years. Due to the statistical system used, however, the numbers of reported homicides always appears be higher, as the same case may be reported several times, and suicides, lethal accidents, and natural deaths are also initially included. The typical homicide occurs indoors, between acquainted males, and under severe intoxication. 

Travelers should be conscious of time and place predictable incidents, such as low-level violence in Stockholm’s bar districts (e.g. Gotgatan in Sodermalm and Stureplan on Ostermalm) on weekend early mornings when fights tend to occur with relative frequency. Some violence can also occur near sports arenas when local rivals confront one another over soccer and ice hockey events. 

Much organized criminal activity is driven by low-level organized criminal groups, many associated with larger motorcycle gangs, such as Hell’s Angels, Banditos, Outlaws, and Vagos. Small businesses have reported instances of extortion and harassment from gangs is not uncommon; however, larger international companies and franchises have not reported being targeted by such activity. Some crime, such as vehicle theft and more complicated financial fraud schemes, is associated with Balkan organized crime groups operating in western Sweden (Gothenburg) and Baltic and Russian organized crime groups operating in southern and central Sweden (Malmo and Stockholm).

Overall Road Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions 

Sweden has excellent transportation infrastructure, and the major roads in and around urban areas is no exception. Travelers driving outside of cities in the winter should make sure they have sufficient winter tires and emergency provisions for winter conditions.

According to Swedish statistics, incidents of vehicle theft are on a steady decline over the past nine years, with 15,300 cars reported stolen in 2013. Some 90 percent of the stolen vehicles are retrieved. Vehicle break-ins are a more frequent phenomenon; windows are smashed, and technology, such as radios, navigation systems, and other valuables, are stolen. 

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

Sweden generally practices peacetime non-alignment in international military affairs but serves an active supporting role in a number of multilateral initiatives, such as military action in Libya and troop deployments in Afghanistan. Sweden’s political engagement abroad has not cultivated homegrown domestic terrorist groups with a clear mandate or agenda to target Swedish infrastructure or government. However, the U.S. Embassy recognizes the possibility that unaffiliated or autonomous groups may decide at any time to conduct terrorist attacks. The Schengen enlargement, which in December 2008 opened EU borders to the Baltic States, essentially expanded Sweden’s borders with Belarus and Russia by 1,800 kilometers. Criminal networks from some of these countries are now impacting the nature of criminal activity in Sweden, but it is unknown how much influence these networks have in Sweden.

Over the past year, there have been many indicators that regional or indigenous terrorist groups operate in Sweden. Additionally, extreme right- and left-wing groups have targeted each another in low-level violence on major dates, commemorating anniversaries noteworthy to their respective causes. 

In November 2010, Sweden raised its national terrorism threat level to medium for the first time ever, and it has remained elevated. In December 2010, Sweden experienced its first suicide bombing in a busy commercial district of Stockholm. The suicide bomber activated the devices prematurely and killed himself. Had the operation been carried out successfully, the number of deaths and injuries would have been significant. Supporters of terrorism are thought to take advantage of Sweden’s liberal laws and use Sweden as a base to fundraise for international militant causes, including for Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, Yemen, and Syria.

Civil Unrest 

Demonstrations take place throughout the year. Most demonstrations are planned and receive approval from police. On occasion, unscheduled demonstrations occur. These are usually small and do not last long. Authorities monitor the demonstrations on a regular basis and keep the Regional Security Office advised of any demonstrations they feel may impact the U.S. Embassy. 

In May 2013, some of the Stockholm suburbs (among them Husby, Rinkeby and Kista) were plagued by riots manifesting in massive damage to property and violence directed toward the police and fire brigade. After two riot-intense weeks, a massive police effort and a huge mobilization from the civil society ended the unrest and re-establish order. Since then, the situation has stabilized, and no new riots have been reported. 

Religious or Ethnic Violence 

Religious and ethnic violence is statistically categorized as “hate crime.” It is not a separate category of crimes but a number of separate crimes caused by a perpetrator’s motive. If a person, or group, is attacked for what they are (concerning ethnicity/race, religion or sexuality) – the crime will be categorized as a “hate crime.” 

A minor number of reported crimes are categorized as hate crimes. The most commonly reported crimes are illegal threats and molestation/abuse. The latest numbers of hate crimes with racial and religious motives from 2012 totaled 4,770 across Sweden. However, there have been reports in the media suggesting that ethnic Jews in Malmo feel increasingly subjected to harassment. 

Post-specific Concerns

Industrial and Transportation Accidents 

Sweden’s Airports and Aviation Authorities are reputedly amongst the best and safest in the world.

Economic Espionage/Intellectual Property Thefts

Economic espionage, when originating from other nations, is handled by the Swedish Security Services, part of the National Police. If the espionage originates from private companies, the responsibility ends up with the County Police. 

The problem of intellectual property theft in Sweden mainly consists of Internet piracy. Over the last several years, the Embassy has had a close dialogue with the local authorities, as they have stepped up Sweden’s enforcement capabilities in regard to Internet piracy. As a result, U.S. industry has not called for the inclusion of Sweden on USTR’s Special 301 Watch List in 2012 and 2013, even though some Bit-torrent sites are partially located in Sweden. The Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive (IPRED), adopted 2009, has also facilitated civil litigation,- which has acted as a deterrent on file sharing of copyrighted materials. 

Privacy Concerns

According to the Swedish constitution, all public administration is subjected to the basic Principle of Public Access to Official Records. Therefore, information on individuals in public records, such as taxed/assessed income, owned properties, registered addresses, and board commitments, is available to the public on request. 

In an effort to protect individual privacy, Sweden adopted the Personal Data Act 1998 in accordance with a directive from the European Union. The Personal Data Act limits the processing of personally identifiable information (PII), and explicit consent from an individual is required before any database with PII can be created. More information can be found at the homepage of the Data Inspection Board, (www.datainspektionen.se/in-english/about-us/).

Regional Travel Concerns and Restricted Travel Areas/Zones

There are no areas of Stockholm that are off-limits to Embassy personnel; however the areas of Rinkeby and Sodertalje do seem to experience higher rates of crime than other suburbs. 

Drug-related Crimes

Drug trafficking is limited to low levels of domestic consumption and transit, consisting primarily of cocaine inflow from South America via Spain, heroin from Central Asia via Poland and the Baltics, methamphetamines and amphetamines from Lithuania and former Eastern Europe, marijuana from continental Europe, and Qat (illegal in Sweden) from the Horn of Africa (consumed by Sweden’s sizeable Eritrean, Ethiopian, and Somali populations). Travelers can expect to see heavy drug users in and around major urban centers, such as near the central train station, and cocaine is prevalent in some night clubs. However, narcotics do not seem to be a major precursor for violent crime in Sweden.

Police Response

Foreign travelers who experience 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 and investigation, and the perpetrator is likely to be caught. Victims of purse snatching, for example, should expect formal and polite assistance but possibly lengthy delays in investigation or resolution. The number of police is a limiting factor.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment 

Police harassment is exceptionally rare; however, if travelers are detained or harassed by police, they should immediately call the U.S. Embassy duty officer (+46-8-783-5300) or Consular Services (+46-8-783-5375).

Where to Turn to for Assistance if you Become a Victim of Crime 

The local police non-emergency number is: 114 14
For all emergencies, call: 112

Various Police/Security Agencies 

There are roughly 20,000 police employees, and most of them are assigned to the three largest counties: Stockholm (Stockholm), Vastra Gotland (Gothenburg), and Skane (Malmo). Police are divided into three major components: Swedish National Criminal Police, Swedish Security Service, and 21 independent county authorities. However, on January 1, 2015, the police will be unified as the 21 independent authorities are unified into one single entity. The Swedish National Police Board will be transformed to the National Headquarter with a mandate to enforce nationwide changes in operational procedures and IT. The nationwide authority will be divided into seven regions, all subordinated to the HQ. The Swedish Security Services will become a separate agency under the government. The purpose of this new organization is to increase the efficiency and service to the citizens of Sweden. 

Medical Emergencies

Contact Information for Recommended Local Hospitals and Clinics

Travelers in Stockholm requiring emergency medical attention can use a number of 24-hour hospitals; however, the two largest and most likely to be used are:
Karolinska Hospital (www.ks.se), Karolinska Vagen, Solna, + 46-8-517-7000
Sodersjukhuset (www.sodersjukhuset.se), Sjukhusbacken 10, +46-8-616-1000

A large number of other medical and consultation services are available throughout Stockholm, and information is readily available in English on the internet.

Travelers outside of Stockholm should consult local directories for contact information for the appropriate local hospital in their area.

Recommended Air Ambulance Services

Emergency helicopters are available in Stockholm County.

CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance 

For vaccine and health guidance, please visit the CDC at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/sweden.

Swedish Institute for Communicable Disease Control: http://smi.se/in-english/

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Crimes/Scams

Internet-based fraud is a crime on the incline, with an increase of over 13 percent in 2013 (24,100). This is most likely due to the growing Internet trade. Companies have reported an increasing problem with fake invoices with reference to non-existent agreements. Statistics suggest a rise in fake invoice fraud of 340 percent between 2005 and 2012. The rising trend was broken during 2013, with a 20 percent drop to a number of 12,900 crimes reported. Recently established companies seem to be targeted by these fraudsters, and threats to take the case to the Swedish Enforcement Authority are frequently made. If subjected to a fake invoice, always dispute the invoice and spell out that no agreement exists. More advice and guidance can be found through the Swedish Enforcement Authority at: (www.kronofogden.se/InEnglish.html) and the Swedish Trade Federation at: www.svenskhandel.se/In-English/. As this is attempted fraud, also report the case to the local Swedish police. 

Best Situational Awareness Practices 

Travelers should use common sense when traveling and attempt to reduce the impact crime by not carrying large sums of cash and valuables on their person. Travelers should store valuables in hotel safes or safety deposit boxes when available.

Travelers should be especially wary in train and subway stations for petty thieves and pickpockets and should be careful of distractions and other techniques used to divert attention for the purposes of purse and briefcase snatching.

Travelers should exercise caution when using cash dispensing machines and should look at card insertion areas carefully for modifications and “skimming” hardware. Travelers should only use reputable cash exchange outlets when attempting to withdraw cash on credit or debit cards.

Travelers should register with the U.S. Embassy and carry a copy of the biographical page from their passport at all times, along with emergency contact information for the U.S. Embassy and local police.

Travelers should avoid parking their cars in poorly lit areas of the city overnight and should use parking garages when possible. Travelers should also avoid leaving valuables in plain sight in their car. When possible, travelers should consider using anti-theft devices to lock the steering wheel and break mechanism.

Travelers should avoid demonstrations. Travelers should stay current with local and international events when traveling, and should monitor local news for the most current information relevant to security issues in the country.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information 

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation 

Dag Hammarskjölds Väg 31, 115 89 Stockholm. 
Hours of operation: 0800-1630 Monday-Friday. The Embassy is closed on Swedish and American holidays. 

Embassy Contact Numbers 

Regional Security Officer: +46-8-783-5412
Embassy Operator: +46-8-783-5300
Medical Unit: +46-8-783-5464/5564
Consular Affairs: +46-8-783-5375
Political/Economic Section: +46-8-783-5321/4515
Marine Post One: +46-8-783-5310

OSAC Country Council Information

Stockholm has an OSAC Country Council, which is operated under the aegis of the American Chamber of Commerce in Sweden.

Point of contact: RSO Hank Jones, +46-8-783-5412, jonesw2@state.gov.