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Human Geography

Nicklas Guldåker

Senior Lecturer, Deputy Head of Department

Human Geography

Spatial analysis of School fires in Malmö, Sweden.


  • Nicklas Guldåker
  • Per-Olof Hallin

Summary, in English

School fires are a considerable problem in many Western countries. The cost of arson in Swedish schools is over 300 million Swedish kronor per year. Since the end of the 1990s, a fire occurs on average once per day, and every second fire is an arson. Malmö is one of the most affected municipalities in Sweden. The causes of arson are difficult to elucidate but can be related to factors such as individuals' psychological characteristics, group conflicts and protest strategies against the authorities, the processes of change in the city's social geography and the social and economic conditions in society. Important preventive work is carried out in the form of fire prevention techniques, training of school personnel, identification of motives of arson and psychological characteristics of fire setters. Despite these preventive interventions, new fires continue to occur. This paper aims at analyzing arson in Malmö with a focus on schools as exposed places. Three related research questions are analyzed: 1) To what extent can arson be explained by single individuals' or groups of arsonists' aggression and alienation? 2) Can arsons in schools be seen as part of an escalation that begins with vandalism and ends with large fires? 3) Can vandalism and arsons in schools be seen as an effect of gatherings of adolescents on school yards and in adjacent neighborhoods? This paper was informed by research done through interviews with those with affected by or involved in arson in Malmö, as well as by GIS and statistical analyses.


  • Department of Human Geography

Publishing year




Document type

Conference paper


  • Human Geography


  • Social geography
  • GIS
  • School fires
  • Spatial analysis
  • Arson
  • Vandalism
  • Neighborhoods
  • Social disorder

Conference name

The association of american geographers annual meeting, 2012

Conference date

2012-02-24 - 2014-02-27

Conference place

New York, United States