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TRENDS IN YOUTH CRIME IN SWEDEN

The general trends with regard to traditional crime (primarily theft and violent offending) in Sweden are largely similar to the crime trends of many other western countries. A summary assessment of Swedish crime trends (Sarnecki 2015) shows that crime rates increased substantially from the end of the Second World War until the early 1990s. Since then, crime has been on the decline. Youth crime rates largely mimicked the trends in the general population. In the period in which crime was increasing, crime rates increased most among young people. Over the past 20 years as crime has been decreasing, the decrease has also been most pronounced among young people (ibid). The general trend is that the decline in crime primarily relates to men, whereas crime levels among women appear to be relatively stable (Backman et al. 2014).

Figure 21.1 presents the number of convictions[1] among youths aged 15-17.[2]

The figure shows that the number of convictions among youths increased until the mid-1990s, and then gradually declined until the mid-2000s. Since then, conviction rates have been relatively stable, with some indication of a possible upswing in recent years. The trend in convictions for offenses against the person (primarily comprising crimes of violence) differs somewhat, remaining stable following an increase during the first half of the 1990s.

Since 1995, Sweden has conducted national surveys of self-reported offending among a representative sample of youths in their final year of compulsory

Convictions among youths age 15-17 per 1000 individuals in this age group in the population, 1989-2011 (Bra 2013a)

Figure 21.1. Convictions among youths age 15-17 per 1000 individuals in this age group in the population, 1989-2011 (Bra 2013a).

education (year 9). The surveys have been conducted every 2 or 3 years. Figure 21.2 presents the results of these surveys for different types of offenses.

The figure shows that levels of self-reported involvement in theft and vandalism have declined considerably during the period examined. Involvement in violent offending has also followed a declining trend, although this primarily relates to having carried a knife in public. Levels of involvement in the “other” category (fare dodging, driving without a license, and the use of a false ID-card) and drug- related offenses (all forms of handling drugs are criminalised in Sweden, including personal consumption) have remained stable over time.

Figure 21.3 shows that the decline in self-reported offending among year 9 youth has been substantial. The group of students who reported no involvement in crime over the course of the year prior to the survey increased in by 56 %, and this group now accounts for a majority of the respondents. The figure also shows that the group of youths who report having committed six or more offenses during the past year has also become much smaller. According to these self-reports, offending has declined among both frequent and non-frequent youth offenders.

There are a number of indicators that suggest that youth crime has declined over the past two decades. Figure 21.4 provides us with a basis for drawing some conclusions about the underlying reasons for this decline. This seems a little out of place.

  • [1] The term conviction is used in Sweden to refer to a court conviction, or a sanctioning decision takenby a prosecutor in the form of a summary sanction order or a waiver of prosecution (see later).
  • [2] As has been noted earlier, the age of criminal responsibility in Sweden is 15. Persons below the ageof 15 are therefore not included in the convictions statistics.
 
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