Shootings and violence in the criminal milieu

Up until a few years ago, Sweden was counted among the European countries with relatively low levels of homicide. However, the homicide rate has increased in Sweden, and is now higher than that of many other countries. The increase in Sweden is primarily linked to an increase in gun violence.

Gun violence in Sweden

Over the last few years, the homicide rate has increased in Sweden, and is now higher than that of many other countries. The increase in Sweden is primarily linked to an increase in gun homicides, which began to rise from the year 2005. To begin with, this increase in gun homicide was compensated by a continued decline in levels of homicide by other means, but since 2013, the rise in gun homicide has contributed to a general increase in Sweden’s total homicide rate.

Knife violence used to be the most common method for lethal violence, but has in recent years been replaced by firearms. In 2022, a firearm was used in the majority of all homicide cases.

The increase in gun homicide in Sweden is closely linked to conflicts in the criminal milieu. Another category of homicide that stands out is lethal violence against partners or other family members. Family-related cases of homicide have decreased for a longer period.


Gun homicide in Sweden and other European countries (Brå report 2021:8)

Homicide in the criminal milieu 2005–2017 (Brå report 2020:4)

Lethal violence in Sweden 1990–2017 (Brå report 2019:6)

Statistics over confirmed cases of lethal violence

The level of homicide in Sweden ranks very high in relation to other European countries. Most countries in the EU have seen a decline in lethal violence, both specifically in relation to guns and generally.

The decline has been most marked in countries that used to have the highest levels of homicide (the Baltic states, western Balkan, Finland and Central Europe), thus harmonizing previous differences between countries. There has also been a similar marked and continuous decline in the rest of the Nordic countries and Western Europe, albeit from initially lower levels.

There is no clear reason why homicides have increased more in Sweden than in other countries. Deciding factors that are often associated with an increase in homicides (for instance illegal markets for drugs and guns, socioeconomic conditions as well as factors related to immigration and ethnic diversity) are also prevalent in other countries, but without the development in homicides. One possible explanation is that the Swedish development is caused by a certain group dynamic, whereby shootings have come to precipitate one another. Research has shown that a shooting incident in Sweden is often soon followed by another shooting, in or close to the same area. Just why this dynamic should have emerged solely in Sweden remains unclear however, particularly as international studies have shown that there are other countries in Europe that have growing problems with gang violence. This is true for Belgium and the Netherlands for instance, but Denmark and Spain can also be singled out.


Gun homicide in Sweden and other European countries (Brå report 2021:8)

Lethal violence in Sweden 1990–2017 (Brå report 2019:6)

Near-repeat shootings in contemporary Sweden 2011 to 2015 (Security Journal, vol. 31, 2018)

Open drug markets, vulnerable neighbourhoods and gun violence in two Swedish cities (Journal of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism, vol. 16, 2021)

In relation to gun homicides, there are many similarities between the perpetrators and the victims. It is not unusual that those killed in shootings have themselves previously been suspected of similar offences. More often than not these are young men and research shows that the suspects, as well as the victims, of gun homicide are increasingly getting younger.

These types of offences are concentrated to areas that are defined by the police as socially disadvantaged, but have lately spread to other places as well. The relative risk of being suspected of attempted or completed homicide is 3.4 times higher among those born in Sweden to two nonnative parents, as compared with other groups (when account is taken of differences in the various’ groups age and gender distributions). The excess risk of being registered as a suspected offender in connection with lethal violence is larger than for almost all other types of offences.


Registered offending among persons of native and non-native background (Brå report 2021:9)

Criminal networks and groups (Brå report 2016:12)

In general, the clearance rate for homicides arising from conflicts in the criminal milieu is lower than for other types of homicide. When persons found guilty of accessory or instigation are included, 33 percent of cases are cleared.

Offences committed in the criminal milieu are difficult to investigate, since they are planned more often than other types of crime, and in those cases where there are witnesses, these are often unwilling to take part in the investigation. Forensic evidence can also be missing when firearms are used, as there is no direct physical contact between the perpetrator and the victim.

In Brå’s recent study of investigations of and clearance rates for lethal violence in the criminal milieu, it was pointed out that the police take many investigative measures, but there is need of more investigators with the skills and experience necessary to work on these types of serious violent crimes. The cooperation within the police also needs to evolve, especially with regard to the National Forensic Centre, in order for investigations to become more efficient and for clearance rates to increase.


Lethal violence in Sweden 1990–2017 (Brå report 2019:6)

Utredning och uppklaring av dödligt våld i kriminell miljö (Brå 2023:4 )[Only available in Swedish]

Cultures of silence (Brå report 2019:10)


Shootings, 2016–2023

Number of shootings¹ and number of fatalities in relation to shootings.

¹) A confirmed shooting is an instance where a firearm has been used intentionally and illegally thus leaving traces in the form of bullets, cartridges or damage to property or people caused by the shooting, alternately there being more than one independent eyewitness to the shooting.

Shootings and explosions in 2023

Number of confirmed shootings and number of explosions (or detonations, that is confirmed instances of destruction causing public endangerment). The statistics are for 2023.

Many young persons among suspects 2022

Number of persons suspected of homicide with the use of a firearm and devastation as well as persons suspected of destruction causing public endangerment by means of explosion (2022).

Publications from Brå

Preventive work

Preventing young persons from offending

The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå) are initiating and supporting crime prevention efforts on both local, regional and national levels. Social intervention groups (SIG) and school, social services, police and free time activity (SSPF) initiatives are two forms of collaboration that aim to prevent children and youth from committing crimes by ensuring collaboration between the municipality, the police and other local stakeholders.