New police unit to fight hate crime

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Police in Oslo are setting up a special unit at the city’s Manglerud police station to tackle and investigate hate crimes. The unit will also work with groups that are especially vulnerable to hate crimes, to spread awareness that threats and harassment are violations of the law that should be reported.

A large group of gay police officers marched in the parade, carrying a banner reading that they are a police force serving everyone in the community. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

Police themselves marched in Oslo’s EuroPride parade this summer, showing solidarity with homosexuals who often are the targets of hate crime. Now the police are forming a special group to tackle hate crimes, also in the form of threats and harassment. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

Hateful threats and harassment have exploded along with the use of social media in recent years. Now the police are organizing a group dedicated to following up on cases reported to police and advising victims of hatred. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Friday morning that even though the group will be based at the large Manglerud station on Oslo’s east side, it will be responsible for stepping up investigation and prosecution of hate crime throughout the Oslo Police District, and offer district-wide training in dealing with it.

“The Oslo police have dealt with these types of cases for many years, but we need to build up better competence around the phenomenon, and to talk with people about it,” Janne Strømner, station chief at Manglerud, told NRK.

She said the police also need to improve routines for investigating reports of hate crimes in a more systematic manner. Many of the cases reported today end up being dropped for lack of personnel or evidence.

Police also hope that more people will report hate crimes. Statistics from last year show that 55 complaints were filed, but police think there are many more cases that victims don’t take to the police.

The sheer frequency of threats and harassment became clear earlier this week, as Muslims in Oslo mobilized for a major demonstration against Islamic extremism. Many Muslims, especially women, are regularly threatened by extremists, mostly anonymous, because of their moderate views. Yousef Assidiq of the minority political think tank Minotenk said he was spat upon on his way to the demonstration and has reported hate messages he’s received three times. “Some of the messages have amounted to death threats,” Assidiq said. “The last one was about cutting my head off so they could use it as a football.”

Homosexuals have also been the targets of hate crimes, with gay men being assaulted on the street and many others receiving threatening messages via social media. “And there can be many people who receive threats but don’t reflect over the fact that they’re victims of a crime,” Strømner told NRK. “Perhaps we haven’t done a good enough job informing the public about hate crime and how to deal with it.”

Most victims, she said, are harassed on the basis of their ethnicity or sexual orientation. Assidiq is glad the police are taking hatred seriously.

“I think the kind of group they’re setting up can raise awareness and make it easier for people to report hate crimes because the police will know what they’re talking about,” he said. The group was to become operative from September 1.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund