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Designing the Swedish Crime Harm Index: an evidence-based strategy

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Neyroud, Peter 
Karrholm, Fredrik 
Smaaland, John 



Research Question

Which method for deriving a crime harm index (Sherman et al 2016) for Sweden from criminal justice sources offers the best evidence for providing a sensitive indicator of differences in harm levels across offence categories?


The number of days of imprisonment for each offence category associated with five different kinds of scales were extracted and compared: consensus by an expert panel of judges, the statutory maximum penalties, statutory minimum penalties, the average of maximum and minimum penalties, and the average of actual sentences imposed in a recent time period for each crime type. Unlike the UK, for which the Cambridge Crime Harm Index draws on sentencing guidelines, Sweden has no such guidelines to offer.


The data were compared for sensitivity defined as the difference in length of imprisonment days between high and low severity crimes, as well as other characteristics of the data sources.


Given the available alternatives, the sentencing data average of actual sentences handed down by crime type provided the greatest reliability and sensitivity across the penalties for offences of high and low severity. Applying that method to both crime trends and crime mapping produces substantially different results from counting all crimes with equal weight, and can be used by police and others to allocate resources with greater precision in relation to harm prevention.

Conclusions On both empirical and normative grounds, the average sentences in a recent time period for each crime category provides the most sensitive and democratic method for establishing an officially recognized Swedish Crime Harm Index.


Crime Harm Index Average Sentences Crime Trends Crime Maps



48 Law and Legal Studies, 4805 Legal Systems, 4402 Criminology, 44 Human Society, Prevention, 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Journal Title

Cambridge Journal of Evidence-based Policing

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC