STOCKHOLM (AP): As many as 30,000 people in Sweden are involved in criminal networks, the country’s justice minister said Thursday, describing the figure as “breathtaking” and vowing to introduce new legislation to fight organized crime.
“Lethal firearm violence has increased dramatically and Sweden is in an extraordinarily serious situation,” said Gunnar Strommer, who added that an official investigation set to begin later this year would look into ways to convict more criminals. The probe should be completed by September 2024, he said.
Criminal gangs have become a growing problem in Sweden, a country of 10 million that has experienced an increase in drive-by shootings, bombings and grenade attacks. Most of the violence occurs in Sweden’s three largest cities: Stockholm, Goteborg and Malmo.
The center-right government has vowed to tackle gang-related crime by tightening laws.
Through May, there have been 144 shootings this year, with 18 fatalities, according to Swedish police. Shootings also wounded 41 people, including innocent bystanders.
In 2022, Sweden set a record with 62 people fatally shot. There were 391 shootings that year and 107 people were injured. A year earlier, there were 344 shootings, with 45 killed and 115 wounded.
A 2021 report by the Swedish national council for crime prevention said Sweden had overtaken Italy and Eastern European countries for number of shootings mainly due to the violent activities of organized criminal gangs.
On Saturday, a shooting in a Stockholm suburb left two people dead and two others wounded, in what appeared to be a feud between criminal gangs. Two men in their 20s were later arrested on suspicion of murder and attempted murder. Police found 21 rounds at the scene, Strommer said.
“This is one of the most pressing societal problems we have,” he said.