Nowhere in Europe is drug-dealing on the streets as open as it is in certain parts of Oslo and Bergen. Now politicians and police are mounting an effort to break up the business that goes on in four main areas of the capital, part of a campaign to make Oslo safer this summer.
It’s hard to miss the crowds loitering around the central train station in Oslo where heroin, amphetamines and other pills change hands. Then there’s the lower part of Karl Johans Gate, just across from the station and around the cathedral, where men mostly from West Africa are known to openly sell cocaine.
In the Grünerløkka district along the Aker River, asylum seekers are recruited by drug dealers to sell hash, while at nearby Vaterland and Grønland, young Somalians peddle both hash and khat alongside a Norwegian community of drug addicts looking for heavier stuff.
Anniken Hauglie, the top city politician from the Conservative Party responsible for social welfare, told newspaper Aften that many other cities in Europe have narcotics communities, “but in no other place is it as open and in the daylight as here.”
For years, Oslo police have moved the addicts from place to place in sporadic campaigns to get them and the dealers off the streets. For the first time, the police and organizations working with addicts are making an historic coordinated effort to split the community, offer drug rehab help and stop the open sale of illegal narcotics.
The police are promising to provide patrols to crack down on the open use and dealing of drugs. The organizations offering help will cooperate on providing shelters and treatment for addicts. Participants include the Salvation Army, the Blue Cross, a city church mission and health care workers from Fransiskushjelpen and the Marita Foundation.
“We all agree we don’t want such open narcotics communities,” Hauglie told Aften. “It leads to recruitment of new, young drug abusers and makes the city unsafe. This is not just a summer stunt, we’ll work continually with this. We will crack down on illegal drugs but addicts will get follow-up help.
The police, meanwhile, are also planning to have far more patrols on the streets all over the city, after several incidents of assaults and even a fatal shooting over the weekend. “The Oslo police district has received extra funds from the Justice Ministry and Police Directorate to make the city safer during the summer,” Police Chief Anstein Gjengedal told Aften.
Higher visibility of police is believed to help deter crime. The police will have staffed posts on lower Karl Johans Gate, at Egertorget on upper Karl Johans Gate, at Spikersuppa in the heart of town and along the Aker River at Hausmanns Bridge, and on Markveien and Thorvald Meyers Gate.
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