Hundreds volunteer for street patrol

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Nearly 500 people have answered the call for more civilian foot patrols on the streets of Oslo, to help stem a wave of rapes and other forms of violence so far this year. Meanwhile, the average length of prison terms for convicted rapists was being criticized as much too low.

The organization behind the street patrols, Natteravn, was encouraged by the high turnout of Norwegians willing to do what they can to make Oslo’s streets safer. Newspaper Aften reported that both men and women, young and old, with and without immigrant background, from Oslo and out of town have signed up to don the yellow vests worn by Natteravn patrols and spend late night hours making their presence known.

Preventative measure
The patrols are viewed as a preventative measure against assault, and are meant to provide a sense of security on streets that suddenly seem to have become mean in the Norwegian capital. “It’s completely idiotic that there are people out there raping women in this city,” 20-year-old Adrian Quist Pedersen told Aften as he donned a Natteravn vest for the first time. “If this can prevent it from happening, it’s fantastic.”

Pedersen has never taken part in Natteravn patrols before, but wanted to help and asked a friend to come along. Lars Norbom, leader of the Natteravn group in Oslo, said the hundreds of new volunteers will help the organization cover a much wider area of the city.

“We have concentrated mostly on downtown, but now we can expand over to Grünerløkka, Grønland and up towards Majorstuen also,” Norbom said, referring to some of the areas where rapes have occurred in recent months. Police will also have extra patrols on the streets this weekend and public transport firm Ruter will set up extra busses running late into the night.

City work crews have also been busy replacing burned-out streetlights, while parking patrols and other city officials will be working late and in areas viewed as risky.

Mild punishments under fire
Norwegian judges, meanwhile, were facing criticism this week after newspaper VG calculated that even though a rape conviction can be punished with Norway’s longest prison term of 21 years, many rapists serve only a fraction of that time.

In 35 of 42 cases surveyed, convicted rapists were sentenced to only an average of three years and four months in prison. Since around 70 percent of convicts are released on probation after serving two-thirds of their sentences, that means many convicted rapists are back on the streets after just two years.

Justice Minister Knut Storberget admitted that the punishment for rape was too mild. His administration raised the minimum prison term allowed for rape from two to three years last year, so longer sentences should result even though they’re largely up to individual judges’ discretion. A public opinion poll conducted for VG indicated that most Norwegians think rape convictions should result in prison terms of between five and 10 years, at least twice what most judges have been handing down.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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