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Sweden 2018 Crime & Safety Report

Europe > Sweden; Europe > Sweden > Stockholm


According to the current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication, Sweden has been assessed as Level 1. Exercise normal precautions.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Stockholm does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizens’ Services unit (ACS) cannot recommend a particular individual or location, and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

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.

Please review OSAC’s Sweden-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.

Criminal Threats

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 be aware of distractions and other techniques used to divert attention. Robberies have occurred in highly-trafficked commercial areas. Pickpocketing and petty theft are common in/near major tourist attractions (Stockholm’s Old Town), at restaurants, hotel common areas, amusement parks, museums, bars, and on public transportation (including airports).

Sweden’s geographic locale and climate affect crime rates; crime tends to increase acutely in the summer when tourism, empty residences, and diminished police resources contribute to a spike in theft during the extended periods of daylight. Criminal networks from neighboring Schengen countries are thought to impact 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.

According to official statistics, the increase in the number of reported crimes in 2017 was negligible compared to 2016 (an increase by less than half a percent). The categories of crimes that reported the highest increase from 2016 were “crimes against persons”: primarily identity theft and crimes of sexual nature. 2016 saw a decrease in reported thefts (pickpocketing, shoplifting) and property damage.

Official Swedish homicide statistics (and final statistics for all reported crimes) are not released until late March of each year. There were 106 confirmed homicides in 2016, compared to 112 confirmed homicides in 2015.

Travelers should exercise caution when using ATMs and should inspect card insertion areas for modifications and skimming hardware. Travelers should only use reputable cash exchange outlets when withdrawing cash. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud.”

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

Violent crimes (homicides, sexual assaults) do occur. The majority occur in larger cities (Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmo). The number of reported rapes increased in 2017 by 10% compared to 2016 (7,230 reports in 2017 compared to 6,720 in 2016). The statistics show only the number of crimes reported and not the total number of actual crimes committed.

According to media reports, the number of crimes involving hand grenades has increased over the past several years. Reportedly, there were 8 such crimes in 2014; 48 in 2015 (of which at least 10 exploded); and 52 in 2016 (of which at least 27 exploded). Though statistics for 2017 have not been made available yet, based on media reporting, incidents have continued in multiple urban locations. U.S. private-sector organizations are not specifically targeted in crimes involving explosives and hand grenades. Crimes involving explosives are usually directed against individuals known to attackers or those active in criminal networks.

Cybersecurity Issues

Computer fraud is defined 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 7% increase in computer fraud in 2017(an increase of 6,820 reported cases over 2016).

Transportation-Safety Situation

For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.”

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Sweden has excellent transportation infrastructure. Driving is on the right side of the road (driver in the left side of the vehicle). Sweden has a zero tolerance policy regarding drinking and driving; it is illegal to drive after one drink. Travelers driving in the winter should ensure they have proper winter tires and emergency roadside kits. Seat belts are mandatory for all passengers. Pedestrians have priority at crosswalks. Headlights must be on. At dusk and when it is dark dim them when meeting another car. Right turns on red are prohibited. Do not use your horn unnecessarily. Trams always have priority in cities. Driving on shoulder is permitted in order to allow faster cars to pass (on highways).

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

For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”

Public Transportation Conditions

Stockholm has an excellent public transportation system of buses, subway (T-Bana), and commuter trains (Pendeltåg, Lidingöbanan). The Storstockholms Lokaltrafik (SL) operates both the bus and subway systems, and their tickets are interchangeable. There are several ticket options when using public transportation. The SL website provides detailed information in English.

Terrorism Threat

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

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

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.

In January 2017, Sweden’s National Centre for Terrorist Threat Assessment (NCT) released its 2017 threat assessment for Sweden and Swedish interests abroad. This report took into consideration The Swedish Security Service (SÄPO)’s operational situation. The greatest terrorist threat to Sweden, according to the NCT, is Islamist extremism. Sweden is regarded as a legitimate but not prioritized target for terrorist attacks by violence-promoting Islamists. There are operatives who have the intent and capability to carry out terrorist attacks.

On 7 April 2017, a hijacked truck was deliberately driven into crowds along Drottninggatan (Queen Street) in central Stockholm before crashing through a corner of an Åhléns department store. Five people were killed, and 14 others were seriously injured. Police considered the attack an act of terrorism. Rakhmat Akilov, a 39-year old rejected asylum seeker from Uzbekistan, was apprehended the same day. Swedish police reported Akilov has expressed sympathy with extremist organizations, among them the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and Uzbek authorities further report that Akilov had allegedly joined ISIS before the attack. Akilov admitted carrying out the attack at a pre-trial hearing on April 11, 2017.

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 2017, SÄPO noted 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 jihadi travelers stay in country and ISIS encourages actions at home.

The Schengen enlargement, which in December 2008 opened EU borders to the Baltic states, essentially expanded the EU’s Schengen open border area with Belarus and Russia by 1,800 kilometers.

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

Notable arrests include:

  • On April 7, 2017, Rakhmat Akilov was arrested on probable cause of “terrorist crimes through murder” (a Swedish legal term). He is awaiting trial proceedings.

  • On April 8, 2016, Swedish national (and Malmö resident) Osama Krayem was arrested for suspected involvement in the 2016 Brussels attacks.

  • In June 2016, Aydin Sevigin was convicted for plotting a suicide attack in Sweden.

  • On December 14, 2015, the Gothenburg District Court sentenced two individuals to life in prison for terrorism through murder after it ruled that graphic video evidence showed the pair taking part in the beheadings of two people in Syria. The verdicts marked the first time foreign fighters were convicted in Sweden of crimes committed in Syria and the first time individuals were convicted for the crime of terrorism.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

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.

Civil Unrest

Sweden’s laws allow for peaceful demonstrations, and 2017 saw multiple demonstrations directed at the U.S. Embassy. However, these demonstrations were not anti-American and ended without incident.

  • On Sept. 30, 2017, the right wing group “The Nordic Resistance Movement” (NRM) demonstrated in central Gothenburg. Around 35 people were arrested and charged with violent riot charges and resisting arrest.

Travelers should recognize the possibility that peaceful demonstrations can turn violent unexpectedly and quickly and should avoid demonstrations.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

Sweden has seen a significant rise in the number of asylum-seekers. The Swedish Migration Agency estimated that the country received between 160,000-190,000 asylum-seekers in 2015, the highest per capita in the EU. In November 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, a significant decrease from 2015. Numbers remain similar in 2017, as 25,666 individuals sought asylum in Sweden.

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

As in 2016, hate-related crimes continued to occur in Sweden in 2017, with acts directed at mosques, the Jewish community, asylum centers, and the immigrant community.

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 (near the central train station), especially the use of marijuana. Cocaine and meth are prevalent in some night clubs; however, narcotics do not seem to be a major precursor for violent crime.

Police Response

Sweden’s law enforcement and security services are professional, fully capable, and outstanding partners of U.S. law enforcement. 

Travelers should carry emergency contact information for the U.S. Embassy and local police.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Police harassment is exceptionally rare; however, if U.S. travelers are detained or harassed by police, they should immediately call the U.S. Embassy duty officer or ACS. You can reach the U.S. Embassy during normal business hours and after hours, seven days a week, via the main Embassy telephone number: +46  (0) 8 783 5300 (if dialing from the U.S.: 011 46 (0) 8 783 5300).

Crime Victim Assistance

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. citizen victims of crime should first contact local police authorities by dialing 112. Crime victims should then contact the U.S. Embassy at +(46) (8) 785-5300 once they have contacted local authorities.

Local police non-emergency Tel: 114-14

All emergencies Tel: 112

For local first responders, please refer to the Embassy’s Emergency Assistance page.

Police/Security Agencies

Swedish Police Authority: Their mission is to reduce crime and increase public safety. The aim is also for more crimes to be solved. The police mission is described in the Police Act (1984:387). Among other things, it states that the police shall prevent crime, monitor public order and safety, conduct reconnaissance, and carry 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

Nationwide emergency telephone: 112

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

For medical assistance, please refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.

Available Air Ambulance Services

Emergency helicopters are available in Stockholm County.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

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. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Europe Team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

Dag Hammarskjölds Väg 31

115 89 Stockholm, Sweden

Operating hours: Mon-Fri, 0800-1630 (closed Saturday and Sunday)

Embassy Contact Numbers

Embassy Operator: +46-8-783-5300

Marine Post One: +46-8-783-5310


Embassy Guidance

U.S. citizens traveling to Sweden should register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to ensure they receive pertinent security updates and notices.

The Department of State has issued a Worldwide Caution to update information on the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world. U.S. citizens are reminded to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness.

Additional Resources

Sweden Country Information Sheet