Investigations and criminal proceedings

Between 130 and 150 criminal cases are reported in Svalbard every year. The majority involve petty theft or criminal damage, but some involve serious accidents, environmental issues and workplace accidents. Environmental crime is a high priority.

Published 6/21/2019

Section 2 of the Svalbard Act specifies that Norwegian criminal law applies to crimes committed in Svalbard. The Governor of Svalbard’s Police Department investigates possible criminal acts that are known to the police, either by reports or by officials from the Governor discovering conditions that should be investigated.

The Governor of Svalbard’s police authority covers the entire archipelago and its territorial sea extending 12 nautical miles from its baseline. 

Crime in Svalbard differs considerably from the conditions in densely populated areas on the mainland. There are few serious cases of acquisitive crime such as burglary and numerically speaking the crime landscape is dominated by drunk driving, petty theft, thefts of mobile phones and minor criminal damage. The drug cases that have been investigated concern the use, possession and sale of small quantities of drugs. There are relatively few cases of violence.

Svalbard has large wilderness areas that are subject to strict preservation legislation through the Svalbard Environmental Protection Act. Combating environmental crime is a high priority for The Governor and emphasis is placed on preventive work through maintaining an active presence in the field. Several environmental cases are investigated each year and considerable fines have been issued.

There is still extensive industrial activity in Svalbard, such as mining operations in Longyearbyen and Barentsburg. The Governor of Svalbard investigates workplace accidents every year. Some of these involve serious injury and death.

The Governor of Svalbard also investigates violations of the fishing regulations in Svalbard’s territorial waters. Monitoring of these regulations is done by the Coast Guard, who works closely with The Governor and operates in Svalbard’s territorial waters in accordance with the agency’s instructions.