President TrumpÂ caused confusion during a Saturday rally in Florida when he said:Â âYou look at whatâs happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?â Trump then mentioned the French cities of Nice and Paris and the Belgian capital, Brussels. The three European cities were attacked by terroristsÂ over the past two years.
Although TrumpÂ did not explicitly say it, his remarks were widely perceived in the United StatesÂ and abroad as suggesting that an attack had occurred Friday night in Sweden.
Trump attempted to clarify his remarks, tweeting Sunday: âMy statement as to what’s happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden.â
My statement as to what’s happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden.
â Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 19, 2017
On Monday, Trump elaborated a bit with another tweet:
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!
â Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 20, 2017
Trump probably was referring to an interview with filmmaker Ami Horowitz on Fox News Channel’s âTucker CarlsonÂ Tonight,âÂ which started circulating on social media shortly after Trump’s speech in Florida. Horowitz has blamed refugees for what heÂ says is a crime wave in Sweden.Â The filmmaker’s claims have since come under scrutiny, as Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported Monday. Two Swedish policeÂ officers who were interviewed by Horowitz said that their comments had beenÂ taken out of context. One of them, Anders GÃ¶ranzon, accused the filmmaker of being a âmadman.â
Such claims by Horowitz have driven upÂ Google search traffic for information on Swedish crime statistics in recent weeks. In fact, interest in the issue has never been higher over the past four years.
Trump’s references to Sweden seemed to suggest that the country’s welcoming approach to refugees andÂ its allegedÂ effects on crime ratesÂ should be a warning sign.Â But wereÂ the president’sÂ remarks justified?
âAbsolutely not,â saidÂ Felipe Estrada DÃ¶rner, a criminology professor at Stockholm University. His responseÂ was echoed Monday by multiple other experts who are familiar with Swedish crime statistics.
Overall, Sweden’s average crime rate has fallen in recent years, DÃ¶rner said. That drop has been observedÂ for cases of lethal violenceÂ and for sexual assaults, two of the most serious categories of crime.
Moreover, an analysis by Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, conducted between October 2015 and January 2016, came to the conclusion that refugees were responsible forÂ only 1 percent of all incidents. Researchers caution, however, that segregation and long-term unemployment of refugees could have a negative effect on crime rates in Sweden in the future.
Germany, the other European countryÂ that took in similar numbers of refugees per capita in 2015, also has refuted claims that the influx led to an increase in crime.Â âImmigrants are not more criminal than Germans,â an interior ministry spokesman saidÂ inÂ June. Overall, crime levels in GermanyÂ declined over the first quarter of 2016, officials said last year.
Nevertheless, skepticism has persisted in Germany, Sweden and elsewhere. A Pew Research Center study conducted in early 2016 indicated thatÂ 46 percent of Swedes believed that ârefugees in our country are more to blame for crime than other groups.â
Reports about alleged police coverups of refugee crimes might have contributed to distrust in official statistics. Criminologists also say that a handful of cases have received disproportionate public attention, creating a distorted perception among Swedes.
âWhat weâre hearing is a very, very extreme exaggeration based on a few isolated events,â Jerzy Sarnecki, a criminologist at Stockholm University, told the Globe and Mail newspaper in May, when coverage of refugee-related crimes reached aÂ peak.
There is one statistic in which Sweden does indeed lead internationalÂ crime statistics, though: reported cases of rape. When three men raped a woman on Facebook Live, the incident made headlines worldwide. But criminologists sayÂ refugeesÂ are not the reason Sweden has such an extraordinarily high number of rape cases.
âThe [definitions] of rape differ between countries,â DÃ¶rner said. âIn Sweden, several changes in legislation haveÂ been made to include more cases of sexual crimes as rape cases.â Sweden’s definition of what constitutes rape is now one of the world’s most expansive. Varying figures, as well as other Swedish measures to facilitate rape complaints, mightÂ have affected statistics, as well.
Swedish crime experts also do not agree that immigrants have created so-called no-go areas in Sweden â areas that allegedly are too dangerous for native Swedes to enter and are effectively run by criminals. âThis perception is fabricated,â DÃ¶rner said. But he and others pointed out that the refugee influx poses challenges to Sweden, just not in the way itÂ is being portrayedÂ by some.
âEven [though] thereÂ are no ‘no-go zones’ as alleged in the propaganda, there are problems around crimes and disturbances in several suburbs of Swedish cities, where immigrant groups tend to be over-represented,â said Henrik Selin, director of intercultural dialogue at the Swedish Institute
âSweden definitely, like other countries, [faces] challenges when it comes to integration of immigrants into Swedish society, with lower levels of employment, tendencies of exclusion and also crime-related problems,â Selin said. There is little evidence, however, that Sweden has turned into the lawless country it is at times being described as abroad.