Police in Stockholm are considering using a strategy against gun violence pioneered in gang-ridden US cities to counter a wave of shootings including an incident in which a 12-year-old girl was killed in crossfire last week.
Senior officers from the Swedish capital have visited the southern city of Malmö, which has greatly reduced its shootings by using the Group Violence Intervention (GVI) methods pioneered in the 1990s in US cities.
“They reacted very positively,” Rolf Landgren, the police commissioner who leads the Group Violence Intervention (GVI) programme in Malmö, said.
The shooting of the girl at a petrol station in Stockholm has led to renewed calls for police to clamp down on the gang violence that has resulted in close to 100 shootings in the first four months of this year alone.
Police believe she was hit by a bullet fired at two men with links to a known gang.
Malmö is on track this year to record its lowest number of shootings in a decade, with only nine registered so far, down from a peak of 65 in 2017.
This is in line with results in US cities. A study of GVI in Boston found that it led to a 63 per cent fall in youth homicide. Mr Landgren said it had taken years of deadly violence before Malmö’s police began to consider GVI – a method developed by David Kennedy, a criminologist, for Boston during the peak of its gun violence in the Nineties.
“We had figures way, way higher than we had ever seen before. We needed to break that spiral,” he said.
In Malmö, the programme, called Ceasefire, was launched in late 2018. Known or suspected gang members are offered help to leave gang life and warned that if they continue to engage in gun crime, they risk continual police harassment. Suspects are continually targeted using laws that were designed to tackle football hooligans.
The bullet-proof car owned by a 30-year-old suspected gang leader was stopped so frequently that he reported the police to Sweden’s parliamentary ombudsman for harassment.
The man has since been sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison, after drugs and weapons were found during a raid. He has appealed the sentence.