Bergen to close Norway's biggest heroin park
The city council in Bergen has decided to close down Nygårdsparken, Norway's largest site for illegal drug-taking, potentially pushing hundreds of heroin addicts onto the city's streets.
"It is clear that it will have serious consequences," Dag Inge Ulstein, the council's commissioner for housing and open spaces area.
The park in Bergen's city centre has over the last 20 years become the main centre for the city's drugs users, with heroin, cannabis and other drugs sold and consumed openly around a hill in one corner of the park.
Police have been routinely criticised for failing to clamp down, but have argued that when they did clear out the park back in the late 1980s, drug users simply spread into the city and then returned as soon as the police stepped down their activity.
The council aims to set up specialist drug-treatment centres in two southern districts of the city by the time the park closes for renovation in July 2014.
But addicts in the park told Norway's TV2 that the proposed centres were too far away and that they were likely to instead inject their heroin in the streets of central Bergen.
"Someone who's sick on heroin isn't going to go Wergeland or anywhere like that to shoot up. He's going to whack it in wherever he's sitting. It's that simple," Jon, one of the addicts said.
Arild Knutsen, director of Norway's Association for Humane Drugs Policy, warned that the move could exacerbate the city's drug problems, by sending addicts out into the city, where they were more likely to lure new users into drug-taking.
"It's good to see a commissioner who grasps the situation, but to go in with the police and to clean out the park is going to mean we get a new, bigger drugs culture in the city centre, which is going to worsen recruitment," he told TV2.