Stockholm [Sweden], September 20: The Swedish government called a crisis meeting on Tuesday due to an escalation of gang violence across the country recently, with a spate of killings that the national police commissioner has called "unprecedented".
Shootings have claimed seven lives in ten days, local media has reported. Gang members are now also targeting relatives of members of rival gangs, and individuals with family ties to members of other factions within their own gang.
Until Sept. 15, shootings had resulted in 34 deaths across the country, according to statistics released by the Swedish Police. Recently, the violence has been concentrated in the capital Stockholm, and the city of Uppsala some 70 kilometers further north.
One of the victims in Uppsala was the mother of a high-ranking gang member, while the other killing was believed to be a case of mistaken identity, local media reported.
In another recent incident in Uppsala, shots were fired at an apartment. No one was hit, but local media reported that the intended victim may have been the mother-in-law of a high-ranking gang member who lives in the house next door.
Local media said that people living in areas where shootings have taken place are now living in fear. At a hastily convened meeting on Tuesday, Swedish Police, local councils, and the government's Council Against Organized Crime discussed how to break the cycle of violence.
"In light of the dramatic and brutal events of the last two weeks, the common view is that it is not an option to deal with the situation the way we have done so far," Minister for Justice Gunnar Strommer told Swedish Television (SVT) after the meeting.
Many of the victims and arrested suspects are minors, according to Strommer. He said that the focus of the meeting was how to prevent children from getting involved in organized crime. The Swedish Police, along with the National Board for Health and Welfare and the National Board of Institutional Care -- the agency that cares for young offenders -- has now been tasked with presenting a new strategy within the next two weeks.
In recent decades, Swedish people have become increasingly used to gun violence. In a study of 23 European countries released in 2021, the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention found that Sweden had moved from the lowest number of shootings to the highest during the years 2000 to 2019.
Ahead of last year's election, a poll of 25,000 individuals revealed that Swedish people ranked crime as the most important issue. This sentiment had not been seen since the late 1970s, SVT reported.
When the Swedish parliament reconvened last week after the summer break, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said that organized crime was one of the biggest challenges facing the country. Two days later, on Sept. 14, the government said that it would increase the budget of the judicial system from 69 billion kronor (6.1 billion U.S. dollars) in 2023 to 90 billion kronor by 2026.
After a United Nations meeting in New York earlier this week, Kristersson also held talks with the mayor of New York on strategies against crime, Expressen newspaper reported.
"It is quite obvious to me that we have to draw inspiration from countries and cities that have had similar problems," Kristersson told Expressen. (1 Swedish krona = 0.090 U.S. dollar).
Source: Xinhua