16:22 GMT18 January 2021
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    Ethnicity hasn't been mapped in Sweden since 2005 for ethical reasons. However, a record spike in robberies and a change of tune on immigration from the country's leadership has spurred the Swedish Crime Prevention Council to reverse its policy.

    Amid a polarised debate about crime, the Swedish Crime Prevention Council (Brå) will record the ethnicity of both victims and perpetrators in a new study.

    Brå, a state administrative authority tasked with producing facts about legal statistics in order to facilitate crime prevention and boost social security, stressed that it lacked "good factual information". The new survey will have a greater emphasis on the perpetrators, the goal being to answer many of the questions that have never been investigated before.

    Among other things, the survey will try to find out whether the perpetrators and victims have a Swedish or foreign background (which includes foreign-born, having two parents born abroad, or at least one parent born in Sweden).

    "We will look at it but we don't know what answers we will get. But where there is an identified perpetrator, we will definitely look at the background", Brå investigator Maria von Bredow told national broadcaster SVT. "So far, we can see that a large part, both of those who commit and those who are exposed, come from socio-economically vulnerable areas", Maria von Bredow admitted, using the official jargon for blighted areas and ethnic enclaves.

    One of the possible reasons behind the decision is the record spike in robberies. In 2019, a whopping 7,741 robberies were reported to the police, a ten-year high. In recent years, the phenomenon of "humiliation robbery" has also entered media parlance for crimes that include moral, physical, or sexual offences as well. So much so that a special term has been coined for it, "förnedringsrån".

    At the same time, von Bredow, a former employee of the Gender Equality Agency, warned that the statistics may be distorted by what she called a "propensity to report".

    "It is thus very likely that our report on the proportion with a Swedish/foreign background among victims and suspects does not fully reflect reality", von Bredow told SVT.

    Nevertheless, this is a remarkable U-turn, since Brå hasn't mapped criminals' ethnicity since 2005 for ethical reasons. The 2005 report showed that it was more than twice as common among the foreign-born to be suspected of crime than among those born in Sweden. For immigrants from, say, Gambia and Ghana, it was more than five times as common.

    Reports from the early 2000s indicated an over-representation of immigrants, as did unofficial reports carried out by the press, think-tanks, and private individuals in recent years. For instance, a 2018 study by the daily Aftonbladet found that 88 percent of Sweden's group rapists have a foreign background.

    Brå, together with high-ranking Swedish politicians who have been pushing for mass immigration, has long denied any link between immigration and crime. However, in another turning point earlier this year Prime Minister Stefan Löfven admitted this connection. This change of rhetoric was widely interpreted as being necessary for the ruling Social Democrats to keep up with the debate on immigration and gang crime. There, the prevalence of immigrants is one of the talking points of the right-of-centre opposition, including the liberal-conservative Moderates and the national-conservative Sweden Democrats.


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    immigration, ethnicity, crime, Scandinavia, Sweden
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