Lethal violence has decreased somewhat over the last 20 years, largely due to fewer cases involving victims under the age of 15.
In 2013, 87 cases of lethal violence were confirmed in Sweden, which is fewer compared with the previous year with 68 cases confirmed.
Studies of lethal violence in Sweden have shown that more than half the reported cases were not actually cases of murder, manslaughter or so-called violence with a lethal outcome. This is because the statistics show all events with a lethal outcome that the police investigate. Many of these reported crimes turn out to be, in reality, suicides, accidents or natural deaths. It also happens that several reports can be made for the same suspected case of lethal violence, which means that the statistics sometimes contain duplicates.
The actual number of cases of lethal violence in Sweden has remained at a relatively constant level since 1990 — around 100 cases per year — in spite of the population increase over the same period. But in 2010, 337 crimes were reported that were considered to be completed murder, manslaughter or assault with a fatal outcome, which is an increase of 105 cases compared with the year before. That sharp increase was found to be due to a single report containing a large number of suspected cases, which have now been shown to not involve murder or other lethal violence.
Since 2002, Brå has conducted a special study of lethal violence, where each individual report is considered in order to present the correct number of cases of lethal violence. The final result was presented in the definitive statistics of reported crime for 2010, which was published in March 2011.
Lethal violence occurs most often in the home, where it is harder for outsiders to see and therefore intervene and prevent the crime. Socially deprived areas are often involved — it is mostly people who abuse drugs or alcohol or have psychological problems who commit this type of violent crime and who often also suffer from it.
Lethal violence rarely takes place between persons who do not know each other; in 70 percent of cases, those involved knew each other. The risk of being attacked in a public place is extremely unlikely, and this risk has not increased in recent years. Lethal violence in public places occurs to a large extent between young men and often starts as a trivial quarrel with alcohol involved. These cases have received a lot of attention, but are only about as common as previously. Neither has the proportion of youths (15—19 year olds) who commit lethal violence increased in recent years.
When it comes to lethal violence towards children (younger than 15), the number has halved since the early 1990s. It is very uncommon for children to be killed by a person they do not know. As is so often the case, it is usually in the home that lethal violence occurs. In the great majority of cases (nearly 90 percent), it is a parent who is the culprit. Parents often take their own lives after killing their children.
The police are able to clear cases of lethal violence more commonly than most other types of crime, although the high rate has declined somewhat in recent years. On average, a person has been able to be tied to the crime in over 80 percent of cases since 1990. Most culprits are sentenced for murder. In spite of the common occurrence of psychiatric illness or other psychiatric problems in those who commit lethal violence, only a small percentage of culprits are sentenced to psychiatric care. On the other hand, the proportion of life sentences has increased in recent years.