Overall Crime and Safety Situation
Norway has a relatively low level of crime in comparison to the United States and Western Europe. However, over the last several years and in certain areas of Norway, especially in the Oslo Metropolitan area, there have been steep increases in residential and office burglaries, as well as petty thefts. Police attribute the steep increase in residential burglaries to criminals coming from Eastern Europe. Petty crime is attributed in part to youth gangs, drug addicts, and those coming from Eastern Europe. In Oslo and the other major urban areas, crime has predictably been centered in the inner city and high transit areas. However, some of the recent residential burglary waves have also targeted bedroom communities in Oslo. As in any other western country, especially in urban areas, the exercise of basic security awareness is prudent. The majority of the criminal cases reported to the police continue to be theft-related incidents. Rare, but growing in frequency and receiving intense media coverage, are violent and weapons-related crimes. These crimes usually occur in areas known to have drug trafficking and gang problems, such as certain parts of eastern Oslo. Reports have shown an increase in rape in Norway. In parts of eastern Oslo, such as Grünerlokke, violent crime is a concern. Tourists and other short-term visitors should be aware that instances of pick-pocketing and petty theft are predictably common in the major tourist areas, hotel lobbies, and in the train and transit stations.
The climate in Norway causes occasional problems for the traveler. Some mountain roads are closed from late fall to late spring due to blockage by snowfall or danger of avalanches. Also, icy road conditions are a concern throughout Norway during the winter. Spring flooding can cause traffic delays. Mountain roads are narrow and winding. In Oslo and the other large cities, air pollution in the winter months is prevalent, and can affect those with asthma or other respiratory problems.
There is a relative scarcity of freeways in Norway and the roads are often narrow with numerous ongoing repair projects underway. Despite this, traffic accidents are generally low in comparison to Western Europe. Transportation of all forms is generally considered reliable and safe.
The overall threat facing Americans from political violence is low. However, in late December 2008 and early January 2009 there were a number of uncharacteristically violent protests in Oslo. None of the protests affected the embassy. The demonstrations were largely organized against the Israeli invasion of Gaza. These demonstrations were held near the Israeli embassy, which is close to U.S. Embassy Oslo. At several of these demonstrations, police deployed tear gas. On two occasions demonstrations broke out into riot situations. Protesters attacked the police with rocks and fireworks. Demonstrators also smashed police vehicles. These demonstrations were largely led by ethnic youth with connections to Muslim countries. Additionally, at least five outlets of a Western fast food chain were damaged by rioters. Those who committed the vandalism apparently received SMS text messages indicating that the chain was financially supporting Israel. One of the restaurants was broken into after the riots had dispersed and the store was closed. A failed attempt was made to ignite a fire using a flammable liquid.
Anti-American sentiments can best be characterized as small, planned, and generally peaceful. For instance, demonstrations have focused on the U.S. policy regarding Palestinian and Israeli issues, U.S. military action in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, and capital punishment in the U.S. These protests have generally been staged at the embassy or in the central areas of Oslo. Again, these protests have been against a specific official U.S. government position and have not targeted U.S. citizens. Most of these demonstrations are by far left-wing groups. Norwegian police are assigned to all known protests and have special units on-call, 24-hours.
Regional Terrorism and Organized Crime
There are no known indigenous or regional terrorists groups in Norway. There was one notable instance of some immigrants to Norway with terrorist leanings who made threats against U.S. Embassy Oslo. No convictions came from the threat against the embassy, but one person out of the group was charged with firing a weapon into an unoccupied synagogue in Oslo.
Organized crime does exist, but on a small scale. Drug trafficking, petty theft, and home burglary rings typify organized crime in Norway, which is often associated within immigrant youth or transiting criminal rings from Eastern Europe.
Like much of Western Europe, and also the rest of Scandinavia, Norway has open borders. Norway is part of the Schengen Agreement. The land crossings between Sweden and Norway are open and individuals are rarely required to show identification.
Norway is an almost universally peaceful nation, with its citizens law abiding to a great degree. Exceptions can be found, like immigrant youth violence. Also far left-wing protesters have attempted to disrupt high-level meetings, such as a NATO ministerial meeting. In the past, police have responded with tear gas. Strikes, protests, and other labor actions are generally announced through the media ahead of time and are usually of limited duration.
There are occasional problems with flooding and landslides in certain remote areas of Norway. A larger issue is heavy winter snowfall in the mountainous areas of the country.
Drugs and Narcoterrorism
Norway has no known issues with narcoterrorism. Drug problems within Norway are increasingly becoming similar to other Western European nations. At night, especially on the weekend, open drug use can be seen. Open drug use by heroin addicts can be seen in downtown Oslo, especially near the main train station. As a result, other types of criminal activity have increased in these areas.
Travel in all areas of Norway is considered safe and the Norwegian police can be counted on to provide adequate services to foreigners during their stay in the country. The Norwegian police are generally responsive, professional, and cooperative. Law enforcement personnel in Norway are well trained and almost all speak fluent English. Their emergency response time is good and their equipment is excellent. Uniformed police patrol by foot, motorcycle, bicycle, horse, and car. Usually police do not carry firearms. Norwegian police have a counter-terrorism squad, which consists of specially trained officers who can respond immediately to large-scale emergency situations. People detained by the Norwegian police cannot be held for more than four hours without being formally charged with a crime. Free legal advice is available. The Norwegian legal system is similar to that of the U.S. American citizens who are detained by law enforcement authorities should request immediate notification to the embassy. Official corruption is rare, and punishable under Norwegian law. Police traditionally do not come to the scene of a routine non-violent crime, such as non-injury vehicle accident. Individuals involved in an accident involving an injury must call the police, and those involved should not move the vehicles before police arrive. Individuals should fill in the Norwegian accident report, but should not discuss guilt and not drink alcohol for 12 hours. Norway has restrictive laws regarding driving while under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. Do not drink and drive. Norwegian law prescribes heavy penalties for even a low blood alcohol level (.2 per thousand). Police checkpoints inspecting for drivers under the influence of alcohol are routine.
The police emergency number throughout Norway is 112.
Emergency medical assistance is widely available and emergency room care is generally of high quality and for the most part equivalent to U.S. standards. The ambulance emergency number throughout Norway is 113.
Air ambulance service, as well as ambulance service by boat (applicable to those in outlying islands), is available. After the 113 medical emergency number is called, officials will make the determination if and when such air and boat ambulances services are warranted.
How to Avoid Becoming a Victim
Most hotels and tourist areas are located only a walking distance from the inner city of east Oslo, which has a high crime rate. Travelers are urged to use their hotel safes or safe deposit boxes and to carry limited amounts of cash and valuables. Exercising common sense and good judgment can best ensure personal safety. As in any overseas environment, American citizens should maintain a low profile and avoid wearing items that readily identify them as American citizens. Private security companies are prevalent in Norway and can be seen performing their duties in train stations, shopping malls, and movie theaters. Some examples of these companies in Norway are Securitas and G4S. The private security companies are considered professional, but often suffer high employee turnover rates due to relatively low pay and limited room for employee advancement. Any private security company must be authorized by the government of Norway and guards must go through proscribed training before they can perform any security guard services.
Areas close to and immediately east of the main train station in downtown Oslo have higher instances of open drug use and crime in general, especially at night. Exercise security awareness, as you would in large metropolitan area in the U.S.
U.S. Embassy Oslo
Located near the Royal Palace at Henrik Ibsens gate 48.
Telephone number: (47) 2130-8550 (This number will ring over to the Marine Post One after hours)
Fax number: (47) 2243-0777
Telephone number: (47) 2130-8715
Fax number: (47) 2256-2751
Foreign Commercial Service
Telephone number: (47) 2130-8866
Fax number: (47) 2255-8803
Regional Security Office
Telephone number: (47) 2130-8972
Fax number: (47) 2130-8920
OSAC Country Council
Norway’s Country Council is active in Oslo and more information can be found at its website. The Oslo Country Council is also part of the Nordic Country Council.