Justice Minister tries again to crack down on crime

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Norwegian Justice Minister Knut Storberget, who’s in charge of the country’s national police force, claims he’s launching a new crackdown on criminals from eastern Europe. Opposition politicians were quick to write off the effort as little more than campaign propaganda, coming as it is just a month before national elections.

Storberget of the Labour Party told newspaper Aftenposten late last week that he’s introducing “several methods” to fight crime instigated by “bands” of people traveling to Norway from countries like Romania. Oslo police recently released statistics indicating that Romanians were behind 80 percent of thefts reported so far this year.

He said he intends to crack down on the groups of highly mobile Romanians who move quickly around Norway. Among other things, he plans to ask Romanian police to come to Norway and infiltrate the Romanian groups “in a way that native Norwegian police are unable to do.”

It’s certainly not the first time Storberget’s ministry has claimed it intended to cooperate with its Romanian counterpart. In November 2007, the ministry released a statement saying that Romania and Norway would “enhance police cooperation” andfurther improve their close bilaterale (sic) cooperation aiming (sic) at preventing and combatting (sic) serious crime.”

Now it seems Storberget is trying again. He also told Aftenposten that police normally used to enforce traffic regulations would be assigned to the anti-crime fight, that more efforts would be made to deport offenders, and that the police districts would be urged to cooperate better among themselves and centralize probes of burglaries and other crimes.He rejected a proposal, however, from his party’s government coalition partner, the Center Party (Sp), to impose passport controls at the border. “You can’t see whether someone with a passport in their hand is going to commit crimes,” Storberget said, adding that it’s most important to cooperate with other European countries.

His new campaign against crime was met with immediate ridicule by opposition politicians who claim Storberget has had four years to deal with the rising crime rate in Norway. Jan Arild Ellingsen of the Progress Party claimed Storberget must have been “asleep” on the job.

“What strikes me first about this is that there’s an election coming up,” Ellingsen told Aftenposten . “The fact that criminal bands have been roaming around in Norway can’t come as any surprise to Storberget. We’ve had this problem for many years now.”

As for using the traffic patrols (called UP) to fight Eastern European criminals, Ellingsen said they’d better be armed. Storberget in turn rejected that proposal, pointing out that the Progress Party has advocated dissolving UP altogether.

UP’s own chief, Odd Reidar Humlegard, said he couldn’t comment on various crime-fighting proposals from politicians. He noted that the national police unit Kripos is responsible for fighting serious crime in Norway.