A Take On Sweden’s Mentality And Security From A String Of Burglaries

Estella stands in front of the University of Gothenburg

“No investigation need. It had to be the refugees. Swedes don’t do that. Just file your insurance claim form.”

Spring in Gothenburg was cold for someone coming from a tropical country. Flowers were still not blooming and the forest seemed a bit dead. I liked my neighbourhood. Situated right next to the forest and the lake, people were few and nature was abundance.

Built against the hill, my student dorm had an interesting design. The ground floor and the top floor, which was the 4th floor, both led to an exit to the main road, one up the hill and one down. I lived on the 3rd floor. A spacious studio with the view to the forest. 10 rooms on my floor, all occupied by exchange students like myself.

It was May. The girl living in the adjacent studio next to mine went travelling for a whole month. I was in my bed on my laptop as usual when I heard loud noises coming in from her room after a school party. She wasn’t the quietest so naturally her packing had to be thundering too.

An eerie summer night

Finally, the whole floor was eerily empty as most went travelling during the semester break for a while. When friends started returning in June, the floor came alive again. I was cooking one evening when I got a text from the girl living next door.

“Can you come over? I had been robbed.

Shook by the text. I dropped the boiling pasta and just ran to her room. As soon as she opened door, I saw it. The room was as messy as it was before she got robbed. Couldn’t really tell a difference.

She had just come back that day and was completely devastated by what she found. The main door was only closed but not locked. She knew something was awry before she even entered.

Frantically called the police at once. They came looking around, seemingly uninterested in the case. Advising her to file an insurance claim form and come to the station in a few days to collect the paper, they left as promptly as they came.

One police officer told her the initial findings. Of course all the expensive items were taken.

A shocking finding to an unusual burglary

Weirdly, items like shampoo, cooking oil and even toothpaste were also taken. Pans were used, dirty dishes in the sink…There was even shit in the toilet, literally.

“Whoever broke into your room, lived in your room.”

That conclusion sent chills up my spine. I had been living next to a burglar. Thinking back on the loud noises I heard, I confirmed my worst fear with her. It was not her making the noise that night. No one was supposed to be in the room.

Informed all our neighbours. They were concerned at first but not overly. Unfortunately for us, it was just the beginning.

The crimes continued

A few days after, the Spanish couple living in the far corner of the corridor knocked on my door, saying someone broke the door at the entrance on the ground floor. The glass was broken and anyone can open the door from the outside. Anyone could come in.

“It’s probably just the kids.”

The police was called again and that was their conclusion. Now, we were all worried. It was less than 24 hours later that the Spanish couple knocked on my door again telling me to come out. All of us gathered in the corridor outside of the Lithuanian guys’ room with the Spanish guy especially on edge.

“Can someone fill me in?” I asked. The Lithuanian guys were travelling so we were just standing outside an empty room.

“Someone’s inside this room.”

WTF. No other words to describe my feeling at the time. They heard noises coming out of the bathroom and we all just stood trying to confirm if we were crazy or this was real.

Shivering down to my core, we just stood outside for 10 minutes in silent to wait for a sound. Probably wasn’t the brightest idea in retrospect.

We heard it. A sound of someone picking up something like a glass and walking. My heart probably skipped several beats and I forgot how to breathe almost. Not sure what to do, I called the police with my voice shaking.

Conclusion without investigation

Petrified but determined to catch the guy, we guarded outside of the door until the police arrived. No one was there but the window was open.

Claiming we were being paranoid and that no one was in the room. We were furious. Our Lithuanian friends confirmed they had closed and locked the window before travelling. Now it’s open. They couldn’t even entertain the possibility someone climbed out from it?

Desperate and scared, we kept pressing questions.

“Why won’t you investigate? How is that not worth looking into after everything that’s happened?”

The police officer said something I never expected a solid police officer would say.

It’s the refugees. Swedes don’t do that. Lots of refugees are illegal and unregistered. There’s no way we can find them. Call us if you suffer a loss and we can make a statement for you to file an insurance claim.”

WTF. That statement might have made me go WTF more than the fact that someone was living in the empty rooms.

Much to our dismay, he only promised to send more staff to patrol the area and left. To top it off, as he left, we found out someone jammed the lock on the entrance door on the top floor. Now both entrance on the top and ground floors were open gates.

My neighbours stayed with me for comfort. We hoped the nightmare would be over but the worst had still yet to come.

Abandoned by the police

The next morning the Spanish girl was almost crying when she came to me. Unknown markings on several doors appeared. One on her room and one on the Lithuanian guys’ room.

Panic-stricken, we ringed the police one last time.

“Unknown markings aren’t concrete evidence of a crime. Anyone could’ve done this.”

They wouldn’t even come over. We were truly alone now. Engulfed by fear, none of us could sleep that night. Strange noises of someone scratching my door appeared in the middle of the night.

Our ghastly face and shaken hands couldn’t even ring the police. A guy friend was staying with us and we immediately woke him up and he rushed to the door. Already long gone. It didn’t take an investigator to know what the mysterious man was doing. Scratch marks on my lock…

Long given up on the idea of calling the police. We stayed up all night and decided to leave this horrifying place the next morning. My friend’s cousin was kind enough to take me in and my other friends all found their place. All of us moved out so fast and didn’t look back, ending our mental torture right there.

Privacy vs safety

Till this day, I still couldn’t comprehend all those decisions taken up by the police. We gave up. Moving out was a better option than praying the police would come to our rescue.

Swedes seemed to be divided over this issues. My friend and the cousin that took me in were enraged by the situation, though not surprised. Born and raised here, they had their fair share dealing with the police. The guy staying with us was also Swedish. He brought some insight to the issue.

Upholding privacy and personal freedom in all circumstances, Sweden is a country you will rarely find surveillance cameras anywhere, meaning no one could catch you if no one could see you.

“No one should know where you are at what time. It’s your privacy.”

Baffled by what he said to us, I just had to ask how he could still hold that mentality after staying with us? Did he not see what happened? He simply said it’s unfortunate but he wouldn’t agree for the building to install surveillance cameras even after that.

Privacy vs. safety. The two shouldn’t clash and be mutually exclusive. But when it comes down to this, what would be the choice? With how the police did their job, the takeaway from this was simple.

“As long as no one saw you in your act. You’re good to go again. Doesn’t matter if you’re a Swede or a refugee because they police will assume you’re a refugee anyways.”

Safety index

I looked it up on World Population and Numbeo, crime rate in Sweden was higher than in Egypt and Iraq, countries notorious for their safety issues. I wondered why…

Never wanted to entertain the blind assumption that it was committed by refugees, I wanted to know how Sweden was going to keep the country safe. If they weren’t going to change their mind on their strategies and they were going to close cases “because it’s the refugees”, criminals could easily walk free and more would be tempted to commit a crime knowing the risk was minimal.

Believing in the goodness in men was not enough. Sweden might be the safest country 20 years ago. But that glory was long gone. Keeping up with the reality and making new strategies would be the only way to stay ahead of things.

Criminals are evolving. If you don’t advance together, you will never catch them.

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