In 2013 the number of police reports with an identified hate crime motive was estimated to 5,508. 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.
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.
What does the hate crime statistics consist of? 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), and in 2012 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, and in 2013, for the first time, gives details on victimisation based on xenophobia/racism, anti-religious, sexual orientation or transphobia.
Some countries hold 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 2013, 1.4 per cent (approximately 106,000 individuals) of the population (16–79 years) stated that they were exposed to xenophobic hate crimes in 2012. The equivalent for anti-religious and homophobic hate crimes were 0.3 per cent (25,000 individuals) and 0.2 per cent (16,000 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 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 2013, an estimated 5,508 were identified by Brå as having a hate crime motive. This represents the same level as in 2012 but a decrease of 5 per cent compared to 2009. Viewed over the past five years, the decreasing trend is most evident for hate crime reports motivated by sexual orientation (a 41 per cent decline), while reports belonging to the category Christianophobic and other anti-religious hate crime (excluding anti-Semitism and Islamophobia) have doubled in the same period of time.
In 2013, as well as previous years, most hate crime reports were identified as being xenophobic and/or racist. Of the estimated 4,000 xenophobic/racist hate crimes in 2013, 980 were considered to be Afrophobic and 230 anti-Roma. Additionally, sexual orientation as a motive was identified in 630 reports, Islamophobia in 330, Christianophobia or otherwise anti-religious in almost 320, anti-Semitism in 190 and transphobia in almost 50 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 victims´ everyday life. The most common crime location in the identified hate crime reports from 2013 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 (59 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, 252 of Sweden’s 290 municipalities were noted down as location for an identified hate crime in 2013.
Of the identified hate crimes reported in 2012, 67 per cent had been cleared up by the end of March 2014. Of these, 3 per cent involved person-based clearances, which means that a person was linked to the crime by means of a decision to prosecute, by acceptance of prosecutor fines or been granted waiver of prosecution. This is the lowest personal clearance rate since 2007 when Brå began to present this type of statistics with regards to hate crime. The person-based clearance rate was lower in relation to the anti-Roma and Christianophobic and other anti-religious motives (1 per cent each) and higher in relation to the afrophobic motive (6 per cent).
Differences in clearance rates between the various motives could to some extent be explained by variations in typical crime types. For crime investigations in general some crimes are regarded as more difficult to investigate, and moreover to link a suspect to, than others. For example, a violent crime committed before witnesses is regarded easier to investigate than graffiti performed at night without witnesses. Unlawful discrimination can also be difficult to investigate or to prove, as the case often is a matter of words against words. However, without also analysing how police and prosecutors work with the investigations, conclusions about reasons behind the clearance rate cannot be drawn with certainty. Further, it is too early to say whether this year’s particularly low rate is incidental or not.
Data from the hate crime statistics 2013.