Murder rate falls to a new record low

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Norwegians are known for being big fans of crime literature, TV series and films, especially during the Easter holidays when murder stories are eagerly consumed. The country’s own murder rate, however, is almost astonishingly low and there hasn’t been a single homicide in Norway so far this year.

Oslo police, shown here in dress uniform at the opening of Parliament last fall, haven’t registered a single murder in the Norwegian capital so far this year, or in the entire country. PHOTO: Stortinget/Morten Brakestad

News broke just before the five-day Easter holidays began that the state police unit Kripos hadn’t registered a single murder anywhere in Norway since January 1. Last year there were seven during the first three months of 2020, also very low in a country with a population of 5.4 million.

In the police district encompassing Oslo, Asker, Bærum and Røyken, with a total of 960,000 residents, a total of two murders were recorded in all of 2020. “Colleagues abroad raise their eyebrows in disbelief when we mention the murder rate here,” Sveinung Sponheim told newspaper Aftenposten when he recently retired after 30 years as a leader of the Oslo police force.

Sponheim was looking forward to setting what he called “a new fantastic record” for few murders in Oslo and it was confirmed. Nationwide, a total of 28 murder investigations were launched in 2020 involving 31 victims. Three cases were double homicides.

There’s been an average 30 murders a year since 2011, when statistics spiked with the July 22 bombing and massacre carried out by a young right-wing extremist. There’d been 31 murders in 2010, and as low as 23 in 2015, according to statistics from Kripos.

Now the zero amount for Oslo and the country as a whole has set a new record, with Corona containment measures believed to be behind it. With all bars, nightclubs, restaurants and other gathering places closed, cities are unusually quiet. Domestic violence has reportedly risen, with so many people stuck at home, but there have been no recorded fatalties. Sponheim was encouraged by the numbers even before the lack of any murders during the past three months was reported.

“The numbers show that the city (Oslo) today is one of the safest capitals in Europe,” he told Aftenposten. “Just try to find another large city with similar numbers. The trend in Oslo over the past 10 to 15 years has been very positive.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund