Youths ‘stay out too late’: Norwegian neighbourhood rep after arson, stone throwing

Youths 'stay out too late': Norwegian neighbourhood rep after arson, stone throwing
One of the burnt-out cars in Oslo on Friday. Photo: Håkon Mosvold Larsen/NTB scanpix
A city representative in a troubled neighbourhood in Oslo has said that youths in the area are staying out too late after a string of vandalism and arson incidents.

“It’s a general problem that so many youths are out far too late at night,” Alv Humborstad Sørland, who represents the Stovner neighbourhood in Oslo, told broadcaster NRK.

Recent weeks have seen several incidents of arson and stone throwing in Stovner and the neighbouring Vestli neighbourhood, most recently on Friday last week, when three cars caught fire.

Police believe Friday’s fires to have been started intentionally.

Police chief for the area John Roger Lund told the Aftenposten newspaper last month that the issue “must be talked to death”.

“I don’t fear the conditions becoming as they are in Sweden, where police run away when they are attacked. Here it is the youths that run we they see us. But first and foremost we need dialogue,” Lund said.

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Secondary schools, mosques and charity organisations in the area are working to improve conditions for young people in the neighbourhood, reports NRK.

The neighbourhood committee, which reports to Oslo Municipality, passed a motion on Thursday last week to spend one million kroner ($118,000) on social initiatives during the summer.

A youth centre will also be established in Stovner’s former library, according to NRK’s report.

“Young people will be able to go there and have a nice time, and they will also have the chance to attend health and child care centres,” said Lund.

Lars Norbom, general secretary of NGO Natteravnene, whose volunteers – who must be adult and sober – walk around the city at night in an effort to help prevent antisocial behaviour, told NRK that he agreed too many young people were staying out late.

“It is often about a lack of things to do. Some people are not included by established free time activities, like sports or choirs, and feel excluded. I think some of these youths feel aggression towards society,” he said.

Terje Wold, head teacher at Stovner’s secondary school, said that he agreed there was a problem, despite well-functioning classes at the school.

“We have fun school days without problems with violence. But there is no doubt that some of our students feel excluded,” Wold told NRK.

The head teacher said that he felt a good relationship between schools and parents could go a long way to easing the increasing social problem in the area.

“We know that a large section of the youth living in Stovner comes from immigrant backgrounds and from families with poor socioeconomic situations. It’s conceivable that for many, this is about quality of life and the participation of families in society. Maybe it has resulted in a feeling of exclusion, so that young people feel uprooted and restless,” he said.