A rare show of restraint by the president this morning, as he hasn’t claimed vindication for his previous comments about Sweden from last night’s unpleasantness in Rinkeby — yet. He did, however, tweet this yesterday:
Give the public a break – The FAKE NEWS media is trying to say that large scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully. NOT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 20, 2017
A few hours after he sent that, lo and behold:
The [predominantly immigrant] neighborhood, Rinkeby, was the scene of riots in 2010 and 2013, too. And in most ways, what happened late Monday night was reminiscent of those earlier bouts of anger. Swedish police apparently made an arrest around 8 p.m. near the Rinkeby station. For reasons not yet disclosed by the police, word of the arrest prompted a crowd of youths to gather.
Over four hours, the crowd burned about half a dozen cars, vandalized several shopfronts and threw rocks at police. Police spokesman Lars Bystrom confirmed to Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter newspaper that an officer fired shots with intention to hit a rioter, but did not strike his target. A photographer for the newspaper was attacked by more than a dozen men and his camera was stolen, but ultimately no one was hurt or even arrested.
On the other hand:
The newspaper Dagens Nyheter analyzed crime statistics between October 2015 and January 2016 and came to the conclusion that refugees were responsible for only 1 percent of all incidents. That has done little to assuage the perceptions, even among Swedes, that foreigners are culpable for the crime that does happen. A Pew Research Center study conducted in early 2016 indicated that 46 percent of Swedes believed that “refugees in our country are more to blame for crime than other groups.”
Sweden’s overall crime rate is down since 2005 despite having admitted many thousands of migrants and refugees in the years since. Preliminary data for 2015-16 also shows no rise in overall crime, but it did show a rise in assaults and rapes accompanied by a drop in drug crimes and theft. (Sweden hasn’t published crime stats showing an offender’s immigration status for more than a decade.) One Swedish criminologist interviewed by the Times conceded that immigrants are overrepresented among offenders, “particularly in more serious and violent offenses,” but that many victims of crime are immigrants too, which is what you’d expect. To the extent that immigrant neighborhoods are segregated from the larger population, predators and prey are locked in together. And criminals from outside those neighborhoods might also zero in on immigrants as vulnerable targets, whether because they’re less likely to report crimes to the police or because the state might not prioritize an immigrant’s report of a crime as highly as a native’s.
It’s a testament to the prestige of the presidency of the United States or to Trump’s global media reach (or both) that so many prominent Swedes felt obliged to push back hard on what he said about Sweden allegedly “having problems like they never thought possible.” Yesterday it was former prime minister Carl Bildt wondering aloud on Twitter what Trump was smoking to make him think something important had happened in Sweden on Friday night. The official Sweden account, which is manned by citizens, has also responded by trying to put the country’s problems with violence in perspective:
We have around 100 murders per year. Thats like two days in the US. Two. Days.
— @sweden / Max (@sweden) February 20, 2017
Bildt made a similar comparison to the U.S., which is useful in turning the focus on violent crime back on Trump but not so useful in gauging whether Sweden’s newcomers are in fact more likely to commit crime than the average Swede and how much that problem is compounded by immigrants forming semi-cloistered neighborhoods where authorities can’t easily operate. It’s also not an effective gotcha against Trump — yet. Trump loves to highlight crime in America as evidence of how far the country has fallen and why we need to make it great again. It’s part of his bill of indictment against the Obama administration. Check back with him in two or three years, though, when it’s his record that’ll be under fire, to see if he’s still talking about U.S. crime rates.
Two clips for you here, one of the current prime minister, Stefan Löfven, responding to Trump by noting Sweden’s high marks in various metrics of prosperity and the other of a scene from Rinkeby last night.