Norway is safer than ever, stats say (despite seven year high murder rate)

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Vilde Skorpen Wikan - [email protected]
Norway is safer than ever, stats say (despite seven year high murder rate)
Skien Prison near Oslo in 2016. Photo: AFP

An increase in the murder rate in Norway could seem like cause for concern. But Norway is in no danger of losing its reputation as one of the world’s safest countries. In fact, your chance of being the victim of a crime is smaller now than 15 years ago. We look at the stats.


In total, 31 people were murdered in 28 different cases in Norway last year, according to the annual murder statistics recently published by the National Criminal Investigation Service (Kripos).

This is the highest number since 2013, when 43 people were killed.

“It’s slightly higher than the previous years, but we’re not worried,” Vibeke Schei Syversen, head of violent crimes at Kripos, told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

“Norway is a safe country where comparatively few homicides are committed,” she said.

Declining murder trend

Syversen points out that the number of homicide cases has been slowly declining for the past 30 years. And far fewer murders were committed in Norway than in neighbouring Sweden, where 111 people were killed, in 2019, according to data from the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå).

In Denmark, the number for 2019 was 62, according to data from Statistics Denmark.

Yet crime researcher and psychologist Pål Grøndahl points out that in an international context, far fewer murders are committed in Scandinavia than in the rest of the world. In fact, in an article published in last year, Grøndahl points out that in a broad and historical perspective, it’s almost not possible for the rate of murders to drop below the number recorded in Norway.

Trust, community and safety

He explains this by highlighting four factors; Norway’s stable governance and laws; the public’s high trust in political leaders and judicial system; a strong sense of community and ties between people in society; and the fact people in general believe society to be just and fair.

Nothing indicates that these trends are reversing. A recent survey conducted by statistics agency Kantar on behalf of Norway’s police, found that eight out of ten people in Norway said they trusted the police in 2020.

Some 94 percent of respondents also said they feel safe in the areas they live and spend their time.


Personal motive

The overview from Kripos also indicates that personal and psychological factors were key explainers for the killings committed last year. Only one of the victims did not know the perpetrator, and 20 of the murders were committed in a private recidence.

“This indicates that we may have succeeded with prevention in public spaces, but that it’s more of a challenge in private homes,” Vibeke Schei Syversen at Kripos told NRK.

“So this is something we will have to focus our preventive efforts on,” she said.

Urban areas do not stand out as particularly dangerous when it comes to killings. In fact, only two people were killed in Norway’s capital Oslo in 2020. Three people were killed in Bergen, while Stavanger and Trondheim recorded two murders each.

The rest of the incidents took place in in the eastern part of the country and in areas close to the coast in the west and south. No one were killed in the area north of Trondheim.

Less crime overall

The declining trend in murders is in-line with an overall reduction in crime rates in Norway.

Data from Statistics Norway stretching back to 2006 shows that in these years, the number of reported crimes has been slashed by nearly a quarter, from over 400,000 in 2006 to 310,000 in 2019.

Considering that the population in Norway in the same period has risen from 4.6 million to 5.3 million, 15 percent, this indicates that Norway is no less safe now than it was 15 years ago.

Most of this decline, however, is driven by a sharp drop in theft and burglary, which from 2006 to 2019 fell by over 40 percent, from nearly 162,000 reported incidents to just under 95.000.

A smaller decline was noted in traffic and drug violations. The number of other types of reported crimes, such as sex crimes, violent crimes, vandalism and property damage and crimes such as fraud remains at a stable level.


No distinct spike in urban crime

It's not surprising, when looking at crime overall, Oslo dwarfs all other municipalities in Norway.

Over 2018/2019 an average of 63,000 crimes were reported annually in Oslo, more than three times the number in Bergen (19.000), and about six times as many as in Trondheim (12.000) and Stavanger (9.000).

Yet while Oslo might be the most "dangerous" place in Norway based on just the number of crimes, it comes in at number six when looking at the number of reported crimes per 1,000 people (92,4). In fact, Halden, Marker and Ullensaker to the east of Oslo, and the former municipality Kvalsund in the far north, all recorded over 100 reported crimes per 1,000 residents.

Kingpin Lærdal

Settled at the very top of the list, however, is Lærdal in the west of Norway. In 2018 and 2019 nearly 500 crimes were reported annually in this small municipality, equivalent to 229 per 1,000 residents.

Its status as the most "crime ridden municipality" in Norway has been well noted, but residents in this picturesque valley, known for its fruit farms and agriculture, do not have a more flexible relationship to the law than the rest of the country.

Instead, the reason for its staggering numbers is the fact that it hosts a Norwegian Public Roads Administration (Statens vegvesen) control post for heavy freight vehicles.

Every day, more than 400 trailers pass the control post which is situated along the main route between Oslo and Bergen, NRK noted in a 2014-article.

“It’s because of the control post at Håbakken that the police report drivers of heavy vehicles,” local police officer Per Tomas Klingenberg noted to the broadcaster in 2014.







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