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Crime For Members

IN STATS: How safe is Norway in comparison to similar countries?

Richard Orange
Richard Orange - [email protected]
IN STATS: How safe is Norway in comparison to similar countries?
Police investigators are seen working at the crime scene on June 25, 2022, in the aftermath of a shooting outside pubs and nightclubs in central Oslo killing two people injuring 21. Photo: Olivier Morin/NTB/AFP

Norway's police warned of escalating gang violence in their annual assessment and the Progress Party has made shootings and stabbings in Oslo into a campaign issue. But how dangerous is Norway compared to similar countries?

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How do you define safety?

Safety can refer to many things, from the presence of international or domestic conflicts, to political instability, to the number of police officers in a certain country.

The Institute for Economics and Peace, a global think tank dedicated to developing metrics to analyse peace and to quantify its economic benefits, is behind the Global Peace Index which ranks 163 countries yearly based on their levels of peace.

The index uses 23 different indicators to measure how peaceful a country is, with these indicators split into three different categories, covering ongoing domestic and international conflicts, societal safety and security and militarisation.

The first category looks at the number and duration of internal conflicts, the number of deaths from external organised conflict, the number of deaths from internal organised conflict, the number, duration and role in external conflicts and the intensity of organised internal conflict to investigate the extent to which countries are involved in external and internal conflicts, as well as their role and duration of involvement in conflicts.

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The second, societal safety and security, looks at ten different criteria to evaluate the level of harmony or discord within a nation.

Some of these criteria refer to crime, such as the level of perceived criminality in society, the number of homicides per 100,000 people, the level of violent crime, the likelihood of violent demonstrations, the number of jailed population per 100,000 people and the number of internal security officers and police per 100,000 people.

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It also includes political instability, the political terror scale, the impact of terrorism and the number of refugees and internally displaced people as a percentage of the population.

Finally, militarisation looks at military expenditure as a percentage of GDP, the number of armed services personnel per 100,000 people, weapon imports per 100,000 people, weapon exports per 100,000 people, financial contributions to UN peacekeeping missions, nuclear and heavy weapons capabilities and ease of access to small arms and light weapons.

Where does Norway  place on this list?

Norway placed 24th out of 163 countries in the 2023 peace index – on a scale where 1 is most peaceful and 163 is least peaceful – with the state of peace in the country placed in the second-highest category, "high".

It is below fellow Nordic countries Iceland, Denmark, and Finland, who placed 1st, 2nd, and 13th respectively, but above Sweden, which ranked 28th. Norway has fallen six places since the 2022 index but still ranked as the 15th safest out of Europe's 36 countries, behind Germany in 11th place, but ahead of Spain (23), Italy (24) the UK (26), and France (24).

In the criterion "level of perceived criminality in society", Norway placed in the highest category, "more peaceful", with 1.314/5. This was lower than the 1.619/5 in Iceland, the 1.62/5 in Sweden, and the 1.41 recorded for Finland, and more or less exactly in line with Denmark, which scored 1.31/5. 

Norway was ranked 1 out of 5 on "violent crime", with 1 being the best possible score and 5 being the worst. This was in line with the other Nordic countries who were all ranked 1, but ahead of Sweden, which ranked 2 out of 5. 

According to homicide data from the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, Norway had 0.5 homicides per 100,000 people in 2021, ranking it the 180th lowest out of the world's 205 countries.

This is less than half the homicide rate of neighbouring Finland and Sweden, which had 1.6 and 1.1 homicides per 100,000 respectively, and even lower than Denmark with 0.8. 

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What about terrorism?

According to the 2022 Global Terrorism Index (GTI), which is produced by the same think-tank as the Global Peace Index, the Institute for Economics and Peace, Norway ranks 49th out of a total of 163 countries, with one being the worst possible ranking and 163 the best.

The GTI is a composite measure made up of four indicators: incidents, fatalities, injuries and hostages, and the score is determined by a five-year weighted average, meaning Norway's score is affected by the mass shooting at gay bar during Oslo Pride in June 2022. 

Norway's overall score on the terrorism index is 3.514 out of 10, with 1 being the best possible score and 10 the worst.

Among the other Nordic countries, Sweden came second after Norway, ranking 63 out of 163 countries with a score of 2.307.

Denmark placed 90 out of 163 countries with a score of 0.16, while Iceland and Finland recorded no impact of terrorism over the last five years.

Norway had a better score and placing than than all G7 countries, with France in 34th place, Germany in 35th, the UK in 42nd, the US in 30th place, Canada in 54th place, Japan in 62nd place and Italy in 53rd place.

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What about violent crime?

According to the latest reported crime data,  39,465 violent crimes were reported in Norway in 2022, the highest number in 15 years. There were 29 murders, which is more or less in line with the murder rate over the past 15 years, with the exception of 2011, the year of the Utøya massacre. There were 83 attempted murders reported. 

Norway only reported 4 lethal shootings in 2022, and 9 in 2021 and 1 in 2020. This is a tiny fraction of the number seen in neighbouring Sweden, where there were 62 lethal shootings in 22, 45 in 2021, and 47 in 2020 

In Europe on average, there are 0.16 gun related deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, meaning Norway, on 0.07 in 2022 is well below average. 

It's difficult to find recent figures, but 2018 figures from the Small Arms Survey investigating gun-related deaths in the world's eight largest economies show that Norway's figure of 0.07 gun-related deaths per 100,000 people in 2022 is relatively low when compared with similar countries.

Infographic: Firearm Deaths in the World's Largest Economies | Statista 

The US in 2018 had 3.77 gun-related deaths, followed by France on 0.5, India on 0.32, Italy on 0.3 and Germany on 0.14. The UK had 0.05 gun-related deaths in the same year, while China had 0.03 and Japan had 0.01.

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What about robberies?

According to Eurostat data from 2021, Sweden placed eighth in the EU for recorded robberies, burglaries and thefts altogether per 100,000 inhabitants, with 1,482 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. 

Simply put, a robbery is a crime where an individual steals from another individual by force or by using the threat of force, which includes muggings or similar. A theft means property was stolen without using force, for example a bike theft, shoplifting or pickpocketing, and a burglary is a crime where an individual breaks into a property to steal something.

This put Norway behind both Sweden, which led Europe with 3,557 reported robberies by 100,000, and Denmark and Finland, which ranked second and third respectively with 2,677 and 2,392 offences per 100,000 inhabitants respectively. 

Iceland was behind Norway with 1,320 robberies, meaning that all the Nordic countries had a higher number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants than the EU average of 1,292.

 

Why are Norway's figures relatively high? Eurostat writes that the differences among countries can be explained firstly by the level of crime, but also by different attitudes in reporting and recording crimes, especially minor ones.

It is important to note that these figures only represent the number of crimes which are actually reported to police, so it is difficult to make conclusions on the actual number of crimes which take place in each country. Norway has a high level of trust in its legal systems which means people in the country may be more likely to report a crime than residents of other countries.

The statistics also show that while Norway places relatively highly in both thefts and burglaries, which do not use violence, it places lower than Spain (112), Belgium (99), Luxembourg (94), France (83) and Portugal (77) on violent robberies.

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So, is Norway safe?

On a global level, Norway is a very safe country, with a score of one or two for most of the indicators in the Global Peace Index apart from weapons imports and exports, where it had a score of 5 and  2.86 respectively. 

When compared to other similar countries, such as the G7 countries and other countries in Europe, Norway is well above average, both on overall Global Peace Index score but also on specific categories such as the level of perceived criminality and the number of homicides per 100,000 people.

According to the statistics, Norway is one of the safest countries in the world. Ultimately, however, whether you feel safe or not depends on many factors, including personal ones.

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