Researcher: Municipal defector programs require better coordination

Municipal defector programs aimed at criminals face a range of challenges. There needs to be better coordination at the national level, according to social anthropologist Anna Hedlund in a new SNS report.

Defections from Criminal Groups in the Largest Cities in Sweden Analyzing Municipal Exit Programs 45.0 KB PDF

More and more people approach municipalities to get help in leaving criminal environments. In Gothenburg alone, sixty or so such cases were handled in 2021. And as the number of defectors from criminal groups is increasing, the organization of such programs also faces increasing demands. Some challenges may have serious consequences, writes researcher Anna Hedlund in the SNS report Defections from Criminal Groups in the Largest Cities in Sweden: Analyzing Municipal Exit Programs.

“I have interviewed key individuals working with defector programs in the three largest cities in Sweden. I have observed that there is a great deal of knowledge in the municipalities. However, such programs also involve several challenges regarding aspects such as coordination and guidelines. I propose that a national knowledge center is established tasked with contributing to a more uniform division of responsibilities as well as more structure in these programs,” says Anna Hedlund, senior lecturer in social anthropology.

When more defectors are relocated without coordination between municipalities, there is an increased risk of old rivals ending up in the same location.

“Several interviewees argue that this could have serious consequences. Once again, we need national guidelines. Municipalities and the police must work together to ensure that defectors being relocated to certain locations does not lead to new conflicts,” Anna Hedlund argues.

In the report, municipalities communicate that the number of private actors offering support to defectors has increased in recent years. In cases where municipalities have granted support to defectors, these external actors step in to take over the work with defectors. Several interviewees expressed great concerns regarding the lack of transparency and monitoring.

“All three municipalities call for guidance with regard to defector activities and private actors. In my view, it is reasonable to argue that we need better monitoring in this area as well,” says Anna Hedlund.

About the author

Anna Hedlund is senior lecturer in social anthropology at the University of Gothenburg.