Sweden says the military will help the police with some duties as gang violence escalates

The Swedish government says it will have its military carry out some duties to free up police in the wake of an unprecedented crime wave

ByThe Associated Press

September 29, 2023, 11:08 AM

Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, left, and Minister of Justice Gunnar Strömmer attend a press conference after a meeting with National Police Chief Anders Thornberg, and Commander-in-Chief Micael Bydén in Stockholm, Sweden, Friday Sept. 29, 2023. Sweden’s prime minister said Friday the Swedish military can carry out some duties to free up police so it can focus on the unprecedented crime wave that has shocked the Scandinavian country with almost daily shootings and bombings. (Anders Wiklund/TT News Agency via AP)

The Associated Press

STOCKHOLM — Sweden’s prime minister said Friday that the military will soon assist the police with some duties to help deal with an unprecedented crime wave that has shocked the Scandinavian country with almost daily shootings and bombings.

Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said his center-right government will announce proposals next Thursday for how the armed forces would work with police. The country’s national police chief, Anders Thornberg, clarified earlier Friday that members of the armed forces won’t be given “direct” policing tasks.

Still, getting the military involved in crime-fighting in any capacity would be a highly unusual step for Sweden, underscoring the severity of the gang violence that has claimed a dozen lives across the country this month, including teenagers and innocent bystanders.

“The police cannot do all the work themselves,” Kristersson said after a meeting with the heads of the armed forces and the national police.

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The prime minister noted that the country’s military already is preoccupied with ensuring readiness because of the war in Ukraine. But he said the armed forces could perhaps help the national police with knowledge of explosives, helicopter logistics and analyses, and that this could be done within the country’s existing laws.

Sweden has grappled with gang violence for years, but the surge in shootings and bombings in September has been exceptional. Three people were killed in recent days in separate attacks with suspected links to criminal gangs, which often recruit teenagers in socially disadvantaged immigrant neighborhoods to carry out hits.

Kristersson said Sweden’s laws need to be tightened to counter the recruitment of young people into gangs, and that he believed there was a majority in the Swedish parliament to make appropriate changes.

More than 60 people died in shootings last year in Sweden, the highest figure on record. This year is on track to be the same or worse. Authorities have linked the latest surge in violence to a feud between rival factions of international criminal gangs.

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