Even medium-sized cities such as Borås are now hard hit by organized crime and everyday crime. In the short term, concentrating police resources in these cities can be helpful. But the crucial thing is that more criminals are kept locked up.
Borås, Borås – who could have believed this? Recently, Borås with its almost 70,000 inhabitants has been hit by an extensive wave of robberies and violence. On Monday morning, a bus was shelled. There were several passengers on board. On the same day, a grocery store was robbed by two masked men, and an employee was injured. Two men were also arrested on Monday for the, probably gang-related, fatal shooting that took place two weeks earlier at the city university. On Wednesday, four people were arrested for a shooting at a hair salon in September, when another customer was shot in the leg (GP 18/9). A suspected bombing also took place this week.
This is just a selection of what the Borås police have been able to report for a week. In two weeks, eight stores have been robbed in Borås and the surrounding area. During the same period, the police task force has arrested several gang leaders in Borås, with the help of Interpol and European police cooperation, among other things in preparation for murder. The shootings have taken turns during the summer and autumn.
Relatively small Borås has been hit by a crime that we normally associate with big cities. The serious, often drug-related and organized, crime with its shootings and explosions creates a general insecurity. Only 49 percent of Borås residents feel safe in their city. In Lund, the same figure is 73 percent, according to the Social Barometer. That may not be so strange. The list of cases where innocent people are affected is starting to get long. Although the probability of being hit is statistically small, it is only natural that the knowledge that you could be shot at the hairdresser or injured in a shoplifting affect you. The expression of crime plays a role.
Shoplifting and theft are seldom directly linked to organized crime. These are so-called loser crimes, crimes that do not provide much money and involve high risks for those who commit them. The connection to the serious crime is rather indirect as the “petty crimes” are often committed by addicts who buy drugs from the more serious criminals and their accomplices.
Even though Borås has been hit unusually hard by eye-catching crime lately, it is no longer something unique for Swedish medium-sized cities. The areas of exclusion, drug use and serious organized crime have spread more across the country over the past 20 years. Only northernmost Sweden is relatively spared from what was previously associated with metropolitan crime. The clean countryside is safer, but instead exposed to organized theft leagues with international connections.
In the short term , the police are mainly available to re-prioritize resources nationally. For cities of Borås size, it can be noticeable if you get help from districts with extensive experience of serious organized crime with both mapping and visible police presence. The fact that criminals feel hunted has a restraining effect. Relieving the police by letting guards, security guards and other professional groups take over certain police tasks can also be of temporary help in order to be able to concentrate the police’s efforts.
But in principle, of course, reprioritisation of resources is not a sustainable, long-term solution. Operation Rimfrost last year had an effect locally, but not overall nationally. What is needed are changes in the law. The most effective is to remove the penalty rebates for mass crimes, reduce them for juvenile delinquency and abolish the conditional release. There is also a need for more, and cheaper, prison places.
The aim must simply be to get the criminals off the streets more permanently, not least those who commit the more serious crimes. It does not only interfere with the ability to organize. It also gives the police time for other operations. Every serious criminal who is in prison is a minor problem. Foreign perpetrators should also be deported to a greater extent. Tougher sanctions are in no way in opposition to social efforts to reduce new recruitment, but are rather a prerequisite for the social efforts not to be constantly opposed.
However, changes to the law take time to implement. The current government has not been inactive, but is locked in by internal party considerations and is unable to implement the more radical overhaul required. So the necessary hairline is likely to be in place at the earliest during the next term, and during another constellation of government. For the sake of Borås and all other Swedish cities, we can only hope that it does not take longer than that.
Håkan Boström editorial in Göteborgs-Posten