Stockholm – Sweden’s government said Thursday that it wanted to establish zones where police could search people even if they are not suspected of specific crimes, with such decisions potentially based on fashion choices associated with gangs.
The country has struggled with a surge in violence in recent years as rival gangs feud over control of drug markets, with bombings and shootings recorded almost weekly.
“Not all people wearing fake Gucci baseball caps are gang criminals, but many gang criminals wear fake Gucci baseball caps,” Martin Melin, spokesperson on police issues for the Liberal Party, told a press conference.
The bill, brought by the coalition government headed by conservative Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson, would let police establish special zones where officers would be allowed to frisk people or search vehicles without them being formally suspected of a crime.
Justice Minister Gunnar Strommer told reporters that while no formal suspicion of a crime was necessary, interventions would be made according to a “risk profile” based on police experience.
Strommer said searches could be based on “if a person had previously been involved in serious violent crimes, or if a person is dressed in a certain way or behaves differently”, adding that “children” could also be subjected to searches.
But he said an intervention should never be based on a person’s ethnicity.
Police would be able to establish the temporary zones — which could last for just two weeks maximum — if there were a significant risk of shootings or bombings in the area.
During the press conference, government officials noted that the number of deadly shootings had tripled over the last 10 years and that 2023 saw a record number of bombings.
According to police statistics, 363 shootings were reported last year with 53 fatalities, while a total of 149 bombings were recorded.
The proposal, which the government hopes will come into force on March 28, has been controversial in Sweden, with critics saying it would run counter to the rule of law and lead to police discrimination.
The government said it had been inspired by neighbouring Denmark, where police have been using similar zones for two decades.(AFP)