Record number of criminal cases in 2023

Turister foran fangsthytte på Svalbard
One of the Governor's field inspectors in conversation with tourists visiting the trapper station "Mushamna" in Svalbard. Photo: Morten Meland / Sysselmesteren på Svalbard.

In 2023, the Governor of Svalbard had the highest number of criminal cases since 2001. The reason is an increase in supervision and controls in the field. In the long term, we hope that the number of criminal cases will decrease, says Governor Lars Fause.

Published 2/20/2024

The Governor effectively processed 226 criminal cases last year. That is an increase of 50 criminal cases from 2022.

- In 2023, we succeeded in our goal of implementing a high presence and many controls in the field. The result was that the Governor’s environmental protection department and police department initiated an "all time high" in the number of reports within the category "environmental crime". These cases were quickly and efficiently handled in the criminal case and prosecution track, says Governor Lars Fause.

Last year thus showed that the investment in supervision and controls has so far produced an effect. In the long term, the goal is a higher degree of compliance with laws and regulations on the part of society, which in turn will make an important contribution to taking the best possible care of Svalbard's vulnerable natural environment, including flora, fauna and cultural monuments, says Fause.

Violations of the Svalbard Environmental Protection Act increased by 35%
In particular, the number of reports for violations of the Svalbard Environmental Protection Act increased from 40 cases in 2022 to 54 cases in 2023, which is an increase of 35%. There is little doubt that the increase in the field of environmental crime is due to the Governor's increased investment in supervision and controls in the field.

In the summer of 2023, the Governor had three teams of field inspectors who carried out supervision and control. They checked 170 vessels, supervised researchers in the field and carried out 425 weapons checks. In total, the field inspectors' control activities led to nine criminal reports.

- Our main focus is still on preventing crime and there are good reasons to believe that high control activity, together with efficient and high-quality criminal case management, will in the long run lead to a decrease in the number of criminal cases, says Governor Lars Fause.

As regards the other categories of crime, it can be pointed out that the category "other" increased from 37 cases in 2022 to 74 cases in 2023, corresponding to an increase of 37%. This category includes, among other things, violations of the Aviation Act, which increased by 19 cases. Mainly, this was due to illegal drone flights closer than 5 km from Svalbard Airport. The "other" category also includes violations of the weapons legislation, which increased by 4 cases.