If you are a regular reader of Swedish crime novels – e.g. Sj÷wall and Wahl÷÷, Mankell, Marklund and so on – you are likely to be under the impression that 1) Ystad is the Murder Capital of Europe and 2) the Police always gets its man.
Both assumptions are wrong. Compared with other West and North Europeans, Swedes are not particularly homicidal, while the quality of Swedish police work belongs in the same sorry category as that of the Springfield Police Department. You really have to be a stupid criminal to get caught by the police in this country.
July is the big holiday season in Sweden and guess what: The policemen are on holiday as well. A representative for the Stockholm Police was quoted in Dagens Nyheter as saying that the fact that investigations were routinely delayed for a month or more didn’t affect the success rate for solving crimes. He may be right: Last year a study of policemen’s attitudes showed that the organisational culture was such that it killed all aspirations of and morale among new recruits within a year of their entering service.
The point of this rant is that a group of criminals carried out yet another armed assault and robbery of a money transport in the Stockholm region late Monday evening. The – usually very violent and dramatic – assaults have been a part of everyday life in Sweden for some years now, and as a matter of fact Sweden is one of the most dangerous countries in all of Europe when it comes to assaults and robberies against money transports.
Transport companies are angry about the performance of the police and so are the trade unions which after a previous incident blocked money transports for a short period. That initiative almost led to a panic among retailers who feared that they would be left with the responsibility for providing citizens with cash.
There are a number of things that I find interesting in this sorry story. One is the naivety on the side of the state when it comes to the risks connected with transporting large sums of money around the country. Basically the National Bank has shut most of its regional offices and privatised the physical distribution of bank notes and coins. Commercial banks and private transport companies are left with the responsibility but lack adequate means to handle criminals.
Another aspect is the way Swedish police works. That an organisation can degenerate and develop a very destructive internal culture is nothing new. But what is interesting and rather scary is that managerial and political initiatives to change the culture are absent. But maybe armed robberies aren’t seen as a problem among police chiefs and bureaucrats.
Note: There is one exception to the rule when it comes to the indifference of the Swedish police. The government has been very forthcoming when it came to following the demands of the record industry for abandoning privacy on the internet and allow for surveillance of data traffic.
Update: The Wikipedia server was up again so I’ve added links to the articles about Sj÷wall/Wahl÷÷ and Liza Marklund.