Sweden to widen police data-access powers to fight gang violence

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Police officers work at the scene after a shooting in Kristianstad
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STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden plans to give police greater powers to access data from mobile phones as it bids to rein in a surge in gang-related violence plaguing its major cities, the government said on Wednesday.

There have been 25 deaths and 180 shooting incidents already this year, according to police figures, with crime at the top of the agenda ahead of a general election next year.

The government said it wanted to give police greater powers to access mobile communications data, including conversations using apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, which are currently are not stored by mobile operators.

"Society's offensive against criminal networks must and will continue, with more police, tougher sentences and more tools for the police in the fight against gang crimes," Interior Minister Mikael Damberg said at a news conference.

A commission will report back to the government on how to change the data-storage law at the latest by 2023.

Sweden has gone from having one of the lowest rates of gun violence in Europe to one of the highest over the last couple of decades, according to a report earlier this year by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention.

In the most recent incident, three people were shot near a shopping centre in Kristianstad in southern Sweden on Tuesday.

Three people aged between 15 and 18 have been taken into custody in relation to the shootings, the prosecution authority said on Wednesday.

The three victims were in serious condition in hospital, police said.

"During the summer of 2021, we have seen once again that certain people show no limit to the violence they are prepared to use," Damberg said.

In 2020, there were 366 shootings, leading to 47 deaths and 117 injuries.

(Reporting by Simon Johnson; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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