In 2014 the number of police reports with an identified hate crime motive was estimated to nearly 6,270. In the hate crime statistics, published annually by the National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå), hate crimes with xenophobic/racist motives made up the largest proportion, followed by hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation.
Estimated number of of police reports with an identified hate crime motive, 2009–2014. Source: Hate Crime
By hate crime is meant that a person is victimised because of their real or perceived ethnic background, race, skin colour or nationality, religious belief, sexual orientation or transgender identity or expression, or for being perceived as representing such a group of people. Although there might be disagreements concerning what should be included in the term hate crime, there is international consensus that such an incident is a result of lack of respect for human rights and peoples’ equal value.
It is difficult to grasp the extent of hate crime in society, since hate crime is not a specific criminal offence in the Penal Code but an aspect of the motives behind a crime. There is no specific crime code for the police to use when recording a hate crime in their computer system. Since 2008, however, there is a field in the reporting system (RAR) whereby the police can mark a report as containing a suspected hate crime, although this was not introduced for statistical purposes.
The main part of the hate crime statistics consists of police reports with an identified hate crime motive. The motive is primarily assessed on details from the narrative text in the report. The method for capturing these reports changed in 2012, from examining all reports concerning a number of specific crime types, to a sample study of eligible reports. The sample size is about 50 per cent. More information on the method can be found in the English summary of the report. The change to a sample study means that all figures from 2012 onwards are estimates.
The hate crime statistics also consists of self-reported victimisation of hate crime. The surveys work as important supplements to the statistics on identified hate crime reports, since not all hate crimes are being reported to the police, nor can we rely on all reported hate crimes being identified for the statistics. The Swedish crime survey (SCS) is a victim survey from which the hate crime statistics annually obtain details on victimisation of xenophobic, homophobic and anti-religious hate crimes. The Swedish school survey on crime (SUB) studies participation in criminal behaviour, problem behaviour and some victimisation among pupils in the ninth grade (approximately fifteen years of age). Last survey is from 2012 and gave details on victimisation of xenophobic and anti-religious hate crimes. The Politicians' Safety Survey (PTU) studies victimisation among Sweden's elected politicians in their role as a politician. Last survey is from 2013 and gave details on victimisation based on xenophobia/racism, anti-religious, sexual orientation or transphobia. SUB and PTU are not conducted every year.
Some countries keep no statistics on hate crime, while others present statistics on one or several hate crime motives. In Sweden the following hate crime motives are included:
According to the Swedish Crime Survey 2014, 1.8 per cent (approximately 136,000 individuals) of the population (16–79 years) stated that they were exposed to xenophobic hate crimes in 2013. The equivalent for anti-religious and homophobic hate crimes were 0.5 per cent (35,000 individuals) and 0.3 per cent (25,000 individuals). It should be noted though, that particularly in respect to the last two motives the estimated numbers are uncertain due to a low number of respondents. Compared to previous years the level of victimisation can be viewed as relatively stable since the differences are not statistically significant.
According to the Swedish School Survey on Crime 2012, 4.5 per cent of the responding pupils in the 9th grade (approximately 15 years of age) stated that they had been victims of a xenophobic hate crime in 2011 and 2.2 per cent had been victims of an anti-religious hate crime. About 2/3 of those being victim of an anti-religious hate crime and 1/3 of those being victim of a xenophobic hate crime stated that they had been victims of both motives. The study does not, however, show whether the double victimisation occurred on the same occasion or on separate occasions.
According to The Politicians’ Safety Survey 2013, 2.5 per cent of all elected politicians partaking in the survey told of victimisation of hate crime in their role as a politician in the year 2012. The most common motive was xenophobia, followed by anti-religious, sexual orientation and transgender identity or expression. Men were somewhat more exposed than women, and politicians with a foreign background were more exposed to hate crime than politicians with a Swedish background (7.0 per cent compared to 2.1 per cent).
Of the police reports registered in 2014, an estimated 6,270 were identified by Brå as having a hate crime motive. This is the highest recorded figure so far; 8 per cent higher than the last top recording in 2008 and 14 per cent higher compared to 2013. Viewed over the past five years, the increase holds for all motives besides when the motive is sexual orientation, which has decreased in the same period of time.
In 2014, as well as previous years, most hate crime reports were identified as being xenophobic and/or racist. Of the estimated 4,310 xenophobic/racist hate crimes in 2014, nearly 1,080 were considered to be Afrophobic and 290 anti-Roma. Additionally, sexual orientation as a motive was identified in almost 640 reports, Islamophobia in about 490, Christianophobia or otherwise anti-religious in almost 490, anti-Semitism in nearly 270 and transphobia in about 70 reports.
Unlawful threat/non-sexual molestation is the most common type of crime, followed by violent crimes and defamation. However, some crime types are more characteristic for certain motives. Agitation against a population group, for instance, is more common for anti-Semitic and Islamophobic hate crimes. Violent crimes are over-represented among Afrophobic hate crimes, while unlawful discrimination is more common among anti-Roma crimes. Criminal damage and graffiti is the most common crime type for the Christianophobic motive.
Hate crimes mainly occur in the context of the victim’s everyday life. The most common crime location in the identified hate crime reports from 2014 was a public place, such as streets, town squares or parks. Own homes and workplaces were also common, as was the internet. It is worth mentioning that in over half of the identified hate crime reports (58 per cent) the offender was unknown to the victim.
Hate crime is not a typically urban phenomenon. Although the county of Stockholm show the highest number of identified hate crime reports, hate crime cannot be said to occur primarily in the metropolitan counties. For example, 254 of Sweden’s 290 municipalities were noted down as location for an identified hate crime in 2014.
From 2014, the previous statistics on cleared hate crimes will instead cover processed hate crime reports. As a result of this change, the statistics more accurately reflect the case-handling process within the justice system. The category of person-based clearance remains the same, but the other categories are new.
Police reports with an identified hate crime motive, recorded in 2013, have been followed up until 31 May 2015. The person-based clearance rate was 5 per cent, which means that in 5 per cent of the cases, a person had been linked to the offence by means of a decision to prosecute, by having accepted prosecutor fines or by having been granted waiver of prosecution. The person-based clearance rate was lower in relation to the Islamophobic motive (1 per cent) and higher in relation to the Afrophobic motive (8 per cent).
Nearly half (49 per cent) of the hate crime reports from 2013 were closed after investigation, while just over one-third (36 per cent) were closed without an investigation having been initiated. In certain circumstances, the police and prosecutors are able to subject offence reports to a so-called investigation-limitation decision, which enables them to discontinue the processing of less serious offences in order to focus on more serious crimes. Such decisions may be viewed as a means of improving the efficiency of justice system processing. An investigation-limitation decision of this kind was taken in relation to 9 percent of the hate crime reports registered in 2013. On 31 May 2015, 1 per cent of the reports were still under investigation. In total, an investigation was initiated in relation to 59 per cent of the reports.
Differences in clearance rates between the various motives could to some extent be explained by variations in typical offence types. For criminal investigations in general, some offences are regarded as being more difficult to investigate, and moreover to tie a suspect to, than others. For example, a violent crime committed in the presence of witnesses is regarded as being easier to investigate than a case of graffiti committed at night without witnesses. Unlawful discrimination can also be difficult to investigate or to prove, since such cases often involve one person’s word against another’s. However, without also analysing how police and prosecutors work with the investigations, conclusions about reasons behind the clearance rate cannot be drawn with certainty.
Data from the hate crime statistics 2014.