A total of 23 people were murdered in Norway last year, the lowest number since 1971, when 22 people were killed. The low murder rate means the risk of being killed in Norway is just one-tenth of that in the US, and much lower than that in many other countries.
New figures from state police agency KRIPOS and a state register listing causes of death show that the average annual murder toll in Norway was 39 for the years from 1969 until 2015. That number was skewed, however, by the mass murder carried out on July 22, 2011 by a lone gunman who killed 77 people in the space of three hours.
Newspaper Aftenposten reported on Wednesday that apart from the extraordinarily high murder count in 2011, statistics show that the most murders in Norway took place in the 1980s and 1990s. The murder rate has been on the decline since, and now stands at 0.4 murders for every 100,000 inhabitants. That compares to more than 100 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in El Salvador, for example, and five in the US.
Ragnhild Bjørnebekk, a researcher specializing in violence at Norway’s state police academy, attributes the low murder rate to Norway’s “open society” where the risk of violence is lower. She cited various welfare programs that can help identify families at risk and help prevent youth from turning to violence.
Bjørnebekk noted that Norway, and especially Oslo, also has a high level of emergency medical care, meaning that many stabbings, for example, are quickly treated and don’t prove fatal. Much of the potentially fatal violence in Norway is tied to stabbings instead of guns.
Police have also won high marks for being efficient and managing to solve nearly all murder cases. Convicted murderers are thus largely prevented from committing murder again, according to Bjørnebekk.
Norway’s highest murder rates were logged during World War II, when the country was under Nazi German occupation and as many as 300 civilians were killed every year. Before that, between 10 and 20 people were killed every year from 1936 to 1940 and in the post-war years extending well into the 1960s, when Norway’s total population was much smaller than the 5.2 million living in the country today.