As Norway moves into summer, gang-related violence is on the rise in the capital. Tension is so high between Oslo’s rival gangs, police warn, that armed battles can break out at any time.
Police worry that Oslo’s gang culture has become more widespread and more complex. Newspaper Aftenposten reported on Tuesday that gang battles motivated by revenge, territory and drug-related profits are on the increase.
Police confiscated a total of 22 firearms linked to organized crime last year, and 21 so far this year. Many weapons are believed to be in circulation.
Since January last year, there have been more than 11 shootings on the streets of Oslo. At least six were linked to criminal gangs, according to police calculations. Gang members have carried out both murders and attempted murders, and “none of these crimes has been solved, which raises the level of tension level,” Einar Aas, head of the Oslo Police District’s organized crime unit, told Aftenposten.
Aas said that profits from drug sales form the basis for the gangs’ existence. “Gangs are the most potent, organized criminals we are working against,” he said, adding that battles are increasingly being fought over market share and sales territory.
Many former recruits and runners for the old gangs have formed new gangs in recent years, some with links to Albanian criminals. All told, gangs in Oslo are now believed capable of mobilizing more than 100 people on each side.
Police reapplying pressure
There are parallels now to the situation in 2006, when tensions between the Pakistani-dominated “Young Guns” and “B-Gang” (B-gjengen) led to an open gun battle during broad daylight at Oslo’s popular Aker Brygge complex on the waterfront. Hundreds of shocked passers-by witnessed the incident, which was part of a string of related shootings around the capital.
Many key gang members were arrested, and others fled the country. Norway’s Ministry of Justice granted NOK 6 million (around USD 1 million) yearly to a major police operation tackling gang violence. Police actions included 24-hour surveillance of gang members, and clamping down even on minor offenses. They later also used dialogue for intelligence-gathering. The operation ceased in 2011.
Gang violence exploded again last year, however, and Oslo police now have an extra NOK 5 million (USD 860,000) in funding this year for surveillance and investigation of gangs. They are working closely with other police districts, particularly Romerike, where some key gang members have their base.
Views and News from Norway/Elizabeth Lindsay
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