The crime situation in Sweden compared to the US, in 4 charts

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After being singled out by president Donald Trump, the crime rate in Sweden is suddenly being discussed all over the US.

But how bad is it? And how bad is it compared to USA?

Here is a look at some statistics.

1. Sweden vs US: Murder rate per 100 000

Comparing statistics between countries is always difficult. Comparing crime rates is no exception: Different countries have different definitions, people in one country may be more willing to report crimes than in another.

However, here are the numbers for the most violent crime; homicide.

2. Malmö vs St Louis: Murder rate per 100 000

Let’s now look at two Swedish cities that have been in the spotlight recently: Malmö and Stockholm.

Malmö has been called the most dangerous city in the Nordic countries (which is true, if the definition is the highest homicide rate), and Rinkeby, where riots took place just a few days after Trump’s remarks, which is located in Stockholm.

Let’s compare those to two of the most violent cities in the US:

The figure for Malmö comes from local paper Sydsvenskan, who divided the number of homicides in 2016 (11) with the number of people living there (326 000). The available official statistics only counts ”region Syd” (which includes Kalmar län, Blekinge län, Kronobergs län och Skåne län, of which Malmö is a part). That number is 1,0 (for 2015).

3. Is Sweden the rape capital of the world?

Nigel Farrage, the former UKIP leader, this week suggested that Sweden is the ”rape capital of Europe”.

A first glance would prove him right. Sweden has a very high number in comparison to the US (as well as all other EU countries).

But if we dig deeper into the stats, there are some things we need to take into consideration.

  • Differences in reported crime across countries are usually related to different reporting rates by victims (and/or detection by the police). Also different definitions of criminal offences by countries, and different counting rules, make comparisons difficult according to Enrico Bisogno, the chief of data development and dissemination at the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

  • ”When a woman comes to the police and says ’my husband or my fiance raped me almost every day during the last year’, the police have to record each of these events, which might be more than 300 events. In many other countries it would just be one record – one victim, one type of crime, one record”, Klara Selin, a sociologist at the National Council for Crime Prevention in Stockholm, told BBC.

  • In 2005, Sweden broadened its definition of rape. The word ”rape” can since then be used to record acts which would be called assault or bodily harm in other countries, according to The Local. That led to an increase in the number of rapes reported in the country in the years following the law change.

  • In Sweden, women are encouraged to report rape cases. It appears, The Independent writes, that ”it is possible that in other countries there is a far stronger stigma around reporting rape than in Sweden”.

  • In fact, rape was down 12 percent in Sweden in 2015 – the year the country received a record 163 000 asylum seekers – compared to 2014. In 2016 it increased again – by 13 percent – but was still lower than 2014.

4. But has the influx of migrants caused a crime wave?

In 2015, Sweden recorded a record 163 000 asylum seekers. Has that led to a crime wave? Not according to available data – at least not if you compare to the rates a few years back.

However, comparing year to year is not a particulary effective method, according to University of Stockholm criminology professor Jerzy Sarnecki.

– Reported crimes are a lousy measure of the development of crimes. The number of crimes reported tends to be dependent on the discussion going on in the country. What criminologists do is to look at the 10-year, 20-year development. Then we can see the trends. Year to year, it’s impossible to judge why changes occur, he told The Local.