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Norway 2013 Crime and Safety Report

Europe > Norway > Oslo

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Norway has a relatively low level of crime in comparison to the United States and Western European countries with large populations. Certain areas of Norway, especially in the Oslo metropolitan area, have seen increases in residential and office burglaries and petty thefts over the last several years. Police attribute the increase in residential burglaries to criminals coming from Eastern Europe. Petty crime is attributed in part to youth gangs and drug addicts as well as to those coming from Eastern Europe. In Oslo and the other major urban areas, crime predictably has been centered in the inner city and high transit areas. However, some recent residential burglary waves have also targeted bedroom communities of Oslo. 

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.

The majority of the criminal cases reported to the police are theft-related incidents. Most hotels and tourist areas are located within walking distance of what can be considered Oslo’s higher crime areas, making instances of property crime and/or petty theft more likely to occur. 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 areas around train and transit stations. 2012 saw an increase in the incidence of theft, including a nearly 20 percent spike in reports of pick-pocketing.

Although rare, violent and weapons-related crimes are growing in frequency and receiving intense media coverage. 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, with parts of eastern Oslo being an area of particular concern, although by no means is the problem limited to that part of the city. Parks in Oslo, even in “safe” neighborhoods, have been the sites of several rapes and muggings in the past few years. Individuals who have been targeted have generally been either alone or in small groups and walking late at night in areas without much pedestrian traffic or ambient light.

Private security companies are prevalent 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, and guards must go through proscribed training before they can perform any security guard services.

Overall Road Safety Situation

The climate 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 during the winter. Spring flooding can create traffic delays. 

In Oslo and the other large cities, air pollution in the winter months is prevalent, (said in large part to be caused by the use of studded tires on the asphalt), and can affect those with asthma or other respiratory problems. Oslo has lowered speed limits to alleviate this. 

There is a relative scarcity of freeways, and the roads are often narrow with numerous ongoing repair projects underway. Mountain roads are narrow and winding. Despite this, traffic accidents are generally low in comparison to Western Europe. 

Transportation of all forms is generally considered reliable and safe.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

The overall threat facing Americans from political violence is low. However, there were a number of uncharacteristically violent protests in Oslo in late December 2008 and early January 2009, none of which directly affected the U.S. Embassy but were largely organized against the Israeli invasion of Gaza. These demonstrations were held either near the Israeli Embassy, which is close to the U.S. Embassy, or in the central parts of downtown Oslo. Several of these demonstrations saw police deploy tear gas. On two occasions demonstrations devolved into riot situations with attacks on police with rocks thrown, fireworks (rockets) aimed at police, and police vehicles smashed, largely by ethnic youth with connections to Muslim countries. Additionally, rioters damaged at least five U.S.-branded fast food restaurants. Those committing the vandalism had apparently received SMS text messages indicating that the restaurant chain was financially supporting Israel. One restaurant 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, generally peaceful demonstrations against a particular U.S. policy. 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 U.S. Embassy or in the central areas of Oslo. These protests have not targeted U.S. citizens. Most of these demonstrations are by far left-wing groups. 

Norwegian police are assigned to all known demonstrations and have special units on-call, 24- hours a day. 

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

There are no known indigenous or regional terrorists groups, although there has been one large successful terrorist attack and at least one potential attack that was foiled.

The worst incident of violence since World War II occurred in 2011 when Anders Behring Breivik carried out a bombing followed by a firearms attack that killed 77 people and injured many more. Breivik’s attack was targeted against elements of the leading Labor political party and was in response to his perception that the party was promulgating immigration policies that were a threat to his idea of what Norway should be. It is believed that Breivik acted alone, and there has been universal condemnation of his actions and no indication that any like-minded group might try to replicate them.

In July 2010, three Norwegian residents, one a citizen, were arrested on terrorism charges. Press reports indicate the three were involved in a plot to construct hydrogen peroxide bombs for a target that was no identified clearly. 

In 2006, there was an instance of Islamic extremists making threats against the U.S. Embassy. No convictions came from the threats, but one person from 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, which is often associated within immigrant youth or transiting criminal rings from Eastern Europe.

Norway has open borders as part of the Schengen Agreement. Those crossing by land, between Sweden and Norway, rarely have to stop or show identification. Because of the ease of entry, it is possible for any threat that exits in any other part of the EU to enter Norway. In 2010, there were a few reports of terrorist actions or plots in Denmark and Sweden, all involving people with some apparent ties to jihadist based groups or thinking. 

Civil Unrest

Norway is a very peaceful nation, and civil unrest is extremely limited. Occasionally in recent years, large-scale demonstrations have devolved into near riots. Additionally, far-left wing protestors have attempted to disrupt high-level meetings, such as a NATO ministerial meeting in 2007 in which police 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.  

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

There are occasional problems with flooding and landslides in certain remote areas. A larger issue is heavy winter snowfall in the mountainous areas.

Industrial and Transportation Accidents

Heavy snowfall and icy conditions in winter have the potential to cause transportation accidents on roads or railways. 

Drug-related Crimes 

Drug problems are becoming similar to what is seen in 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. 

There are no known issues with narco-terrorism.

Police Response

The police can be counted on to provide adequate services. The police are generally responsive, professional, and cooperative. Law enforcement personnel 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. Police do not usually carry firearms. 

Norway has very restrictive laws regarding driving while under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. Law prescribes heavy penalties for even a low blood alcohol level; .02 is the legal limit. Police checkpoints inspecting for drivers under the influence of alcohol are routine and are often set up in the mornings to catch people who drank heavily the previous night and still have alcohol in their systems.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment 

Persons detained by the 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 American Embassy.

Official corruption is rare, and is punishable under Norwegian law.

Where to Turn to for Assistance if you Become a Victim of Crime

Police traditionally do not come to the scene of a routine, non-violent crime such as a non-injury vehicle accident. Individuals involved in an accident involving an injury must call the police and should not move the vehicles before police arrive. Those involved should fill out an accident report but should not discuss guilt and not drink alcohol for 12 hours. 

The police emergency number throughout Norway is 112.

Various Police/Security Agencies 

Police have a counter-terrorism squad, which consists of specially trained officers who can respond immediately to large-scale emergency situations. 

Medical Emergencies

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 is 113.

Recommended Air Ambulance Services

Air ambulance service, as well as ambulance service by boat (applicable to those in outlying islands), is available. After the medical emergency number is called, officials will make the determination if and when such air and boat ambulances services are warranted.

CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

For additional health guidance, visit the CDC at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/norway.htm.

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Best Security Practices

The exercise of basic security awareness is prudent and called for. Exercising common sense and good judgment can best ensure personal safety. American citizens should make every effort to maintain a low profile and should avoid wearing items that draw attention to themselves.

Travelers should keep weather conditions in mind when planning any type of travel around Norway.

Travelers are urged to use their hotel safes or safe deposit boxes and to carry limited amounts of cash and valuables. 

Visitors to Oslo are advised to walk in groups if possible and to stick to well-lighted areas that are heavily trafficked. 

Carry a cellular phone at all times and be prepared to call the police emergency number of 112 if a dangerous situation develops.

U.S. Embassy/Consulate Location and Contact Information 

Embassy/Consulate Address and Hours of Operation 

The U.S. Embassy in Oslo is located near the Royal Palace at Henrik Ibsens gate 48.

The Embassy is open 08:00 to 17:00 Monday-Friday. The Embassy is closed on Norwegian and American holidays.

Embassy/Consulate Contact Numbers

Operator tel. (47) 2130-8550, fax (47) 2243-0777. 
Consular Section tel. (47) 2130-8715, fax (47) 2256-2751. 
Foreign Commercial Service tel. (47) 2130-8866 fax (47)2255-8803.  
Regional Security Office tel. (47) 2130-8972, fax (47) 2130-8920

OSAC Country Council Information

Norway’s Country Council is jointly administered through the RSO and the head of the American Chamber of Commerce. For further information about the Country Council, contact the RSO in Oslo at [47] 2130-8972. The Country Council is also part of the Nordic Regional Council.