Registered offending among persons of native and non-native background

English summary of Brå report 2021:9

Brå has studied how those registered as suspected offenders are distributed across different groups based on native and non-native background.

The distribution of registered offending among persons of native and non-native background is often a topic of discussion. The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå) has previously published two research studies on this issue, but several years have passed since the publication of the most recent study (in 2005), which focused on registered crime during the period 1997–2001. Since 2001, immigration to Sweden has increased, and the composition of the non-native population has changed. The current study was initiated against this background, with the aim of updating and improving the knowledge base on offending among persons of native and non-native background.

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Key findings

The proportion of the population registered as suspected offenders has declined over the period 2007–2018 in all of the groups examined, among persons of both native and non-native background. This is true both in relation to all registered crime and when registered crime is broken down into different offence types. For most of the offence types examined in the study, the proportions registered as suspected offenders have declined over the period 2007–2018, irrespective of native and non-native background. There are some exceptions to this general pattern, however.

For drug offences, the majority of which relate to personal drug use, the proportion registered as suspected offenders has increased in all four groups examined: i.e. among persons born in Sweden to two native-born parents, those born in Sweden to one non-native parent, those born in Sweden to two non-native parents, and those born abroad.

During the final years of the period examined, there has also been an increase across all four groups in the proportions registered as suspected offenders in connection with sex offences.

The proportion registered as suspected offenders in connection with attempted or completed homicide offences has increased among those who were born in Sweden to two non-native parents, but has remained stable in the other three groups.

The proportion registered as suspected offenders in connection with residential burglaries has declined among persons born abroad and persons born in Sweden to one or two non-native parents, but has remained relatively constant for those born in Sweden to two native born parents.

By comparison with the those born in Sweden to two native-born parents, who are employed as a reference group in the study, the risk of being registered as a suspected offender is greater among persons born abroad and among those born in Sweden to one or two non-native parents. The study refers to this as a relative risk or excess risk.

For some offence types, the size of this excess risk has increased over the period 2007–2018 for certain groups. For example, the excess risk of being registered as a suspected offender in connection with drug offences and attempted or completed homicide offences has increased for those who were born in Sweden to two non-native parents. For other offence types, the size of the excess risk has declined. For example, the excess risk of being registered as a suspected offender in connection with sex offences or robbery offences has declined for both persons born abroad and persons born in Sweden to two non-native parents.

As regards the risk of being registered as a suspected offender in connection with any type of offence, the relative risks for those born abroad, and for those born in Sweden to one or two non-native parents, are much the same in 2018 as they were in 2007. Compared with those born in Sweden to two native-born parents, the risk of being registered as a suspected offender is greatest for those who were born in Sweden to two non-native parents.

A major part of this latter group’s excess risk of being registered as suspected offenders is due to differences in the age distribution between this group and those born in Sweden to two native-born parents. The proportion of young people is higher among those with two non-native parents, and youths and young adults are generally suspected of offending considerably more often than older adults.

About the study

Brå has studied how those registered as suspected offenders are distributed across different groups based on native and non-native background. The study includes three sub-studies, each of which has a different focus. The study has not had the primary aim of examining why the proportions registered as suspected offenders are greater or smaller among different groups, or to provide an answer as to which factors might explain trends over time. This would require another type of study.

The study is primarily descriptive, and comprises three sub-studies:

The first sub-study examines the proportions of Swedish residents aged 15 or over on December 31, 2014, who were registered as suspected offenders in relation one or more offences committed at some point during the period 2015–2018. The sub-study focuses on the following questions: What proportion of persons of native and non-native background were registered as suspected offenders? What is the relative risk of being registered as a crime suspect for different groups of individuals of non-native background, viewed in relation to the corresponding risk among individuals born in Sweden to two native-born parents? How much of the risk difference can be explained by variations in the groups’ age and gender distributions, and are levels of possible excess risk affected if we take account of the fact that persons of non-native background often have lower incomes and lower levels of education, and that they more often live in certain types of municipality?

The second sub-study describes the trend over time in the proportions of different groups of individuals of native and non-native background who are registered as suspected offenders each year. How large a proportion of these different groups were registered as crime suspects each year during the period 2007–2018?

The third and final sub-study also focuses on trends over time, but examines how the total number of offences linked to registered suspects each year are distributed across different groups during the period 2007–2018. The question examined here is how large a proportion of these offences were linked to a suspect from different groups who were registered as Swedish residents at the time of the offence, and how large a proportion were linked to suspects who were non-residents.

Brå has made the assessment that updating the knowledge base on the distribution of persons registered as suspected offenders across different groups may reduce the risk for guesswork and speculation in this area. Brå’s most recent previous study was published in 2005, so our assessment has been that an update of the knowledge base is reasonable in order to see whether the situation has changed or whether the results are similar to those noted in previous research.

The study employs data from Brå on persons registered as suspected offenders, and data from Statistics Sweden on native and non-native background. The study employs Statistics Sweden’s official classification of native and non-native background, which is based on four groups: Born in Sweden with both parents born in Sweden; Born in Sweden with one parent born abroad; Born in Sweden with both parents born abroad; Born abroad.

Publication facts

Author: The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå)

© Brottsförebyggande rådet 2021

urn:nbn:se:bra-1003

Report 2021:9

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