Source: (2003) In, Elmar Weitekamp and Hans-Jurgen Kerner, eds. Restorative Justice in Context: International Practice and Directions.Devon, UK and Portland Oregon: Willan Publishing. Pp. 285-303.

In order to achieve the goals of reduced crime and improved public security in Sweden, it is often claimed that what is needed are reduced levels of tolerance for crime. Zero tolerance requires that the police should respond to any and all offenses and that offending should result in the punishment of the offender. A demand in the crime policy debate is that the justice system reacts particularly with respect to young offenders. In Sweden, an extremely intensive weeding-out process takes place among the offenses against the criminal law that are reported and discovered. This weeding-out process has now assumed such proportions that the question stands whether the system is still working on the principle of an obligation to always prosecute offenses. There has been a trend that police do not report offenses to the prosecutor, primarily in relation to the offense of shoplifting. Besides being an offense where this particular discretionary power is used, shoplifting is interesting from the perspective of crime policy for several reasons. It is a so-called everyday crime and should be given priority by the police. It is also an offense that is committed by both younger and older people. Perceptions of this form of offending have changed over time. The question of the sanctions that should be applied to youths that commit criminal offenses is a recurring theme in the crime-policy debate. The proportion of young offenders being issued with a decision not to prosecute has fallen, while the proportion being placed in the care of the social services has increased. One possible explanation might be that the character of police reported youth offending has changed.