The escalating spiral of violence in Stockholm has now been going on for a month. The fact that several of those arrested are under the age of 15 is arousing strong reactions.

"People get scared, they lock themselves in. Some people are considering whether to send their children to school or not," says Municipal Police Martin Lazar.

The escalating spiral of violence in Stockholm has now been going on for just one month. January 20, a man was shot to death in the center of Solna. Archive image.
The escalating spiral of violence in Stockholm has now been going on for a month. January 20th, a man was shot to death in the center of Solna. Archive image.

There's a blue jacket on the ground, and there's a pool of blood between two cars.

In this place, a parking lot in Rinkeby, a 30-year-old man died on Christmas day.

Since then, a spiral of violence in Stockholm has escalated – with murders, blasts and shootings involving several different conflicts. Hundreds of police officers have been called to the capital to help.

The ages of those involved in the past few weeks stand out, the police have made about 30 arrests, many of whom are under 15 years of age and have been taken care of by social services.

"We have never had so many young people suspected of murder before. We even have suspects as young as 13 years old," says Carin Götblad, Chief of Police at the National Police Operations Department, Noa.

"They are so terribly young. Very young people under the age of 15 found with older criminals with guns in cars. Who are obviously about to commit an act of violence," continues Götblad.

Young people aged 15-17.
Young people aged 15-17.

Younger and younger, rougher and rougher.

The police stated at the end of last week that 50 percent of those detained in the ongoing cases in Stockholm are under 18 years of age. 75 percent is under 20 years of age.

In the last two years, the number of 15 to 17-year-olds charged with murder, attempted murder, and accessory to murder has also increased, according to figures from the District Attorney's Office.

Martin Lazar, municipal police in Botkyrka, has been beaten by the amount of violent crimes for such a short time.

"They get younger and younger, they get rougher and rougher. I am very sorry to see that more and more young people are being exploited by criminal networks for their activities," he says.

In January 2022, the so-called penalty rebate was removed for young people between 18 and 20 years of age. However, the penalties for 15 to 17-year-olds have not been tightened.

Martin Lazar thinks this may have affected the gangs.

"The criminals also think about how to streamline their work. It's easier to take advantage of these children who already live in very vulnerable environments," he says.

Carin Götblad, Police Commissioner of the National Operations Department of the Police, Noa.
Carin Götblad, Police Commissioner of the National Operations Department of the Police, Noa.

Keeping the children at home

Commissioner Götblad says that the legislation is so new that it has not yet been evaluated if it is used by the gangs.

"We don't know that, but I think the older criminals deliberately exploit the young because they get such a low penalty. If you are between 15 and 17 years old, the highest you can get is four years of juvenile care. A life must be worth a lot more than that," says Carin Götblad.

Mr Lazar is concerned that the escalating violence is now weakening the culture of silence that already exists in vulnerable areas, which could jeopardize the police's efforts to build trust.

"People get scared, they lock themselves in. They choose to keep their children at home instead of sending them to leisure activities. Some consider whether to send their children to school or not," he says.

Martin Lazar, Municipal Police of Botkyrka Municipality. Archive image.
Martin Lazar, Municipal Police of Botkyrka Municipality. Archive image.

Receive idol status

Both Martin Lazar and Carin Götblad find it worrying that young people themselves offer to carry out blasts and shootings, to gain status and climb the gang hierarchy.

"The fact that teenagers offer to become contract killers in order to become someone and gain idol status in these circles. It's terrible," says Götblad.

Sometimes even young people are forced to commit acts of violence.

"We don't know how common it is, but we've been hearing it more and more. Often it may be that they are enticing and friendly, rewarding the young and pretending to be their friends. Then they put them in a vice and force them to commit crimes," says Carin Götblad.

When younger people are hired as contract killers, the risk of outsiders coming to injury also increases.

"They are more dangerous and unpredictable. They can also take the wrong person. We suspect that it happened in more cases recently," says Götblad.

Both Carin Götblad and Martin Lazar reiterate the importance of intensifying preventive work, in parallel with the fact that today's violators must be stopped and prosecuted.

"We must not give up hope. I am hopeful that we can reverse developments, but it will take time," Lazar says.

Facts: The spiral of violence in Stockholm

The spiral of violence in Stockholm began on Christmas Day 2022 when a man in his 30s was shot to death in a parking lot in Rinkeby.

According to the police, there are several conflicts that have escalated. During the month, more than 20 shootings and blasts have happened.

The police have initiated a special incident in connection with the spiral of violence.

The Stockholm police have been reinforced with hundreds of police officers from other parts of the country.

The police have carried out about 30 arrests, several of which are under 15 years of age and were handed over to social services.

Source: Police