Explosive violence: A near-repeat study of hand grenade detonations and shootings in urban Sweden

AuthorJoakim Sturup,Amir Rostami,Manne Gerell
Published date01 September 2020
Date01 September 2020
Subject MatterArticles
European Journal of Criminology
2020, Vol. 17(5) 661 –677
© The Author(s) 2019
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1477370818820656
Explosive violence: A
near-repeat study of hand
grenade detonations and
shootings in urban Sweden
Joakim Sturup
Police Authority, Stockholm Region, Sweden
Manne Gerell
Malmö University, Sweden
Amir Rostami
Institute for Future Studies, Stockholm University, Sweden
Hand grenade attacks have increasingly been reported in Sweden. However, to date no research
on the topic exists. The present study aims to describe the illegal use of hand grenades and
to test its spatio-temporal relationship with gun violence to explore whether the two forms
of violence are connected. Data were collected for the years 2011 to 2016 from the Swedish
police and from open sources about hand grenade detonations, which were considered alongside
shootings as two types of violence commonly attributed to criminal groups. Descriptive data and
trends are presented and spatio-temporal analysis of near-repeat patterns was performed using a
near-repeat calculator. All in all, there were 77 incidents of detonated hand grenades in Sweden
during the six-year observation period, in which nine individuals were injured and one killed.
The number of incidents increased, with about half of the them occurring during the last year.
A near-repeat analysis was performed on shootings (N = 1048) and hand grenades (N = 55) in
Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. The shootings exhibit a strong component of near-repeat
patterns, but adding hand grenades to the analysis did not strengthen the patterns, suggesting that
the two types of violence only partially share spatio-temporal patterns. The study confirms an
increase in the use of hand grenades in Sweden, although the reason for the increase is unknown.
The increase does fit with the overall changing pattern in violence in urban areas in Sweden,
which broadly tends to be attributed to criminal groups in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.
Gangs, hand grenades, homicide, near-repeat, shootings, urban violence
Corresponding author:
Joakim Sturup, Police Authority, Stockholm Region, 106 75, Stockholm, Sweden.
Email: joakim.sturup@polisen.se
820656EUC0010.1177/1477370818820656European Journal of CriminologySturup et al.
662 European Journal of Criminology 17(5)
Sweden has witnessed a dramatic change in gun violence in the last 20 years (Khoshnood,
2017, 2018; Sturup et al., 2018a), with an almost five-fold increase in risk among males
aged 15 to 29 years (Sturup et al., 2018b). During a five-year period, the three largest
cities in Sweden (Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö) experienced 958 shootings,
resulting in 79 dead and 355 injured (Sturup et al., 2018a). As an example, in 2015 over
20 people were shot to death and another 70 were injured in the Swedish metropolitan
areas of Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö alone. From an EU comparative perspec-
tive, the rate of homicidal and non-homicidal shootings is fairly high (Savona and
Mancuso, 2017). This is part of a changing pattern of violence in Sweden, where most
types of violence are decreasing whereas that associated with conflicts between criminal
groups, often using guns or explosives, is increasing (National Council for Crime
Prevention, 2015a; National Council for Crime Prevention, 2017; Swedish Police
Authority, 2017). The increase in violence by criminal groups has occurred mainly in the
big cities, and in particular as a result of criminal groups in disadvantaged neighbour-
hoods (National Council for Crime Prevention, 2015a; National Council for Crime
Prevention, 2015b; Khoshnood, 2018). Although data on gun violence have now been
collected and research is emerging, very little is known about the seemingly related phe-
nomenon of explosives, which is difficult to track because there are no easily available
data. Indeed, many of the crimes registered by the police involving explosives may cap-
ture detonations that may be non-gang-related phenomena. In the present article, we
have therefore chosen to focus on one type of explosive, namely hand grenades. Hand
grenades are military weapons, which implies that, when they are used in civilian set-
tings, criminal entities with access to the illegal firearms market are likely to be involved
and therefore we hypothesize that it is a form of violence similar to gun violence. In a
European perspective, the increasing use of hand grenades seems to be unique to Sweden.
Although hand grenades are used in intra-criminal settings (Swedish Police Authority,
2017), there have also been incidents in which bystanders were struck1 and incidents
where hand grenades have been used against law enforcement officials.2
Research and statistics regarding the use of hand grenades
in civil settings
Most studies on explosives and violent crime have examined explosives overall (for
example, Kumar, 2013; Mäkitie, 2006; Saravanapavananthan, 1978), and studies on
hand grenades have been conducted within the framework of terrorism studies (Gupta,
2005), suicides (Petković et al., 2013), and spiral fractures of the humerus (Kaplan et al.,
1998). However, a German forensic medical case series involving four cases of
(attempted) homicide by means of hand grenades indicates an increase in the use of hand
grenades in their catchment area, without specifying the numbers (Karger et al., 1999).
Few studies examine the use of hand grenades per se in civil settings. As far as we know,
there is only one study reporting on the use of hand grenades in a criminal civil context
(Guerra, 2013). This media-based study analyses the use of hand grenades in Mexico
during a 12-month period and reports a yearly prevalence of about 50 cases involving

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