Social Media Claim

Swedish crime stats claims not clear cut

A Facebook post from November 23, 2019 claims Sweden is a “world leader in many things”, quoting several crime statistics.

The Statement

AAP FactCheck examined a Facebook post from November 23, 2019 on a page called Future Australian Prime Minister with statistics on Sweden, claiming the Nordic nation is a “world leader in many things”.

The post features a photo of a grenade bearing the Swedish flag with the text: “Sweden is a world leader in many things.

- Highest number of bombings in the West. 200 this year.

- Highest number of rapes in Europe.

- Highest number of young men killed in shootings in the West.

Yet we are told it’s supposed to be a liberal utopia

Crime is out of control”.

The comment “Diversity is a strength right?” accompanies the image and text.

The post has been shared more than 120 times and received more than 30 reactions.

AAP FactCheck was unable to find data that Sweden “had the highest number of bombings in the West” but two officials say 2019’s rise has no equivalent internationally.

The Analysis

AAP FactCheck examined each of the claims made in the post, which contained no sources for the purported statistics on Sweden.

Regarding the first claim - that Sweden has “the highest number of bombings in the West. 200 this year” - there have been numerous media reports (The Guardian, Financial Times, BBC, The Spectator and New York Times) detailing a rise in the number of bomb attacks by criminal gangs in 2019.

A November 8 report by news agency AFP, published by Swedish website The Local, quoted Sweden’s national police chief Anders Thornberg saying that he sees “no equivalent internationally” to the country’s wave of bombings this year. The report said there had been 100 explosions in the first 10 months of 2019 - more than double for the same period in 2018.

Commenting on 2019’s wave of bombings, Ylva Ehrlin, a bomb squad analyst, was quoted in a Guardian article saying: “There are 10 million people in Sweden and I have not found the equivalent of this level of explosions in any industrialised country.”

Sweden’s National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå) website says comparisons of Swedish crime statistics with other nations are difficult to make due to “legal and statistical factors” in the Nordic nation.

“In some countries an event is only recorded in the crime statistics if, after investigation, it can legitimately be considered a crime or when there is sufficient evidence that a crime has been committed. Swedish statistics, on the other hand, record all reported events as crimes even if some of them are later found not to have constituted criminal offences,” Brå says.

While AAP FactCheck was unable to find data that Sweden “had the highest number of bombings in the West”, two officials - a police chief and bomb squad analyst - say this year’s rise has no equivalent internationally.

For the claim in the post of 200 bombings “this year”, a 2018 report by Sweden Radio (Sveriges Radio) said the National Forensic Centre investigated 211 cases involving explosives in 2017. For 2019, several media reports listed the number of bombings at around 100.

Regarding the claim that Sweden has the highest number of rapes in Europe, a 2017 report by the statistics agency Eurostat showed that, on a population basis, Sweden was second behind England and Wales for occurrence of the crime. Sweden recorded 57 rapes per 100,000 people.

The report did state that Sweden had the highest number of violent sexual crimes at 178 per 100,000 people ahead of Scotland (163), Northern Ireland (156), England and Wales (113).

Sweden’s (Brå) reported that rapes increased by 10 per cent in 2017. A report by The Local website said rapes reached a total of 7,230 for that year.

Brå says, in a 2011 article, that the nation’s legal definition of rape and its extensive reporting of the crime means “more sexual crimes are registered as rape (in Sweden) than in most other countries”.

In 2018, Sweden became one of only 10 countries in Western Europe, including the member nations of the United Kingdom, to legally recognise that sex without consent is rape. Criminal laws elsewhere define rape on the basis of physical force or threats of force, coercion or inability to defend oneself.

On the issue of Sweden having the “highest number of young men killed in shootings in the West”, AAP FactCheck found evidence to support the claim.

A study published by the European Journal of Criminal Research in May 2018 examined gun violence rates among males in Sweden from 1996 to 2015. The study reported that “the rate of gun homicide victimisation among males 15 to 29 years was higher in Sweden compared to other Western European countries”. The data for Sweden was collected from three official agencies - the National Patient Register, National Cause-of-death Registry and the National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå). Data on lethal gun violence for males aged 15 to 29 was sourced from a database of Cause-of-Death statistics by the World Health Organization.

Addressing the post’s claim that “crime is out of control”, Sweden’s Brå reported in June that while violent crime had risen in the Scandinavian country, it was still below levels recorded in the 1990s.

The Verdict

AAP FactCheck found there was no evidence to support the claim Sweden had the “highest number of bombings in the West. 200 this year”. While a report said the figure reached 211 in 2017, there is no data that compares Sweden with other western nations. Two officials have said the 2019 wave of bombings has no equivalent internationally, however the number of events 10 months into 2019 was about 100, not 200.

While Sweden did not have “the highest number of rapes in Europe”, according to a 2017 report by the European Union’s statistics agency, Eurostat, Sweden did rank second behind England and Wales. Sweden also did have the highest incidence of violent sexual crimes.

There was evidence to show Sweden had the “highest number of young men killed in shootings in the West”, a claim supported by a European Journal of Criminal Research study analysing Swedish and international data over 20 years.

  • Partly False - The claim of the content is a mixture of accurate and inaccurate, or the primary claim is misleading or incomplete.

First published December 11, 2019, 17:49 AEDT