Eastern European crime wave crashes over Norway

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Nearly all of Norway’s 27 police districts are reporting a sharp increase in theft, burglary and other crimes carried out by persons from eastern European countries. Of 180 foreigners arrested in Oslo since early May, fully 121 were from Romania.

“We estimate that Romanian citizens are behind 80 percent of the crimes carried out by foreigners in Oslo, which makes up a considerable portion of total crime,” Geir Ellefsen of the Majorstuen Police Station in Oslo told newspaper Aftenposten . “And it’s naive to believe that this isn’t part of organized networks.”

He said that police in Oslo have observed large groups of persons believed to be from Romania meeting in the mornings to decide who will beg for money, try to sell roses on the street, conduct betting games or steal. They then spread out around the city before meeting up again later. Many camp together under bridges, along the Aker River through town or in local parks.

Other police districts around the country report trouble from traveling groups of persons from eastern Europe. Again, most are from Romania but others caught pick-pocketing, shoplifting and burglarizing homes have also come from Bulgaria, Poland and Lithuania.

“The problem has been increasing since the European Union expanded its borders,” said Leif Ole Topnes, acting chief of the Rogaland police district. The EU expansion allowed visa-free movement of the residents of the new EU countries across borders. Even though Norway is not a member of the EU, it abides by EU trade and transit regulations through separate treaties and is thus open to visitors from the entire EU area.

It remains unclear how the police can fight the new crime wave, since the offenders generally lack a permanent address, they are highly mobile and the crimes are carried out over a wide area. Local police districts are cooperating with the national police agency Kripos.

“If we don’t figure out how to tackle this and stop it, it can become an everlasting problem,” said Police Chief Knut Broberg of the mountain district of Sogn og Fjordane.