Stockholm police announced on Tuesday it is extending its mass surveillance program with the use of drones approved in several new locations across Stockholm County.
The plan was first proposed to help tackle the country’s rising gang crime, as rival criminals continue to spill blood on the streets of the Swedish capital in unrelenting turf wars.
More than 60 locations have been closely monitored through the use of drones since the start of the year, a scheme brought in after a record number of gang-related homicides in 2022, which have been tied to the country’s rising immigrant population.
Multiple Stockholm boroughs are under constant surveillance, and the suburbs of Rågsved, Hagsätra, and Hökarängen have now been added to the extensive list of areas where police argue the need for constant surveillance is justified in the pursuit of reducing gang-related crime — even if civil liberties groups contend the action amounts to Orwellian control of the populace there.
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The camera surveillance, initially only sanctioned to be active until May 31, has been approved to continue for at least another six months until Jan. 8, 2024; however, reports in Sweden suggest the scheme could continue indefinitely.
“It is a worrying development we have seen in Stockholm. To get rid of crime, we will probably have to hold on for a long time,” Stefan Singman, head of the police’s section for camera surveillance, told the broadcaster SVT.
Swedish police assessed that the interest in monitoring areas with high levels of crime outweighs the privacy interests of citizens to not be under surveillance.
When the initiative was launched, the police issued a statement highlighting that measures would be taken to promote the protection of individuals’ personal safety “to the greatest extent possible.”
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It explained that the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) would “only take place occasionally, for a limited time and after a careful assessment of needs based on the local situation. The persons who become subject to surveillance will be so for a short time and to a limited extent, unless they are people of interest based on the purpose of the surveillance.”
Police also vowed not to enter private residences or other privacy-sensitive locations.
In February, local reports claimed the majority of the drones being used by the Swedish police were manufactured by the Chinese drone maker DJI, a company that has been blacklisted in the United States due to security concerns.
“Where our drones come from is not something we comment on for police tactical reasons,” a police spokesperson said at the time.