Organised Crime, Sexual Offences Priority in New Action Plan

Jón Gunnarsson Minister of Justice

Extensive changes will be made to the handling of sexual offences and organised crime in Iceland, according to a new action plan introduced by the Ministry of Justice yesterday. Dozens of new police officers will be hired to meet increased demand. The National Police Commissioner told Vísir that there is “room for improvement in many areas.”

A four-fold plan of action

During a press conference held yesterday, Justice Minister Jón Gunnarsson, alongside the National Police Commissioner, the Commissioner of the Capital Area Police, and the District Prosecutor, unveiled a new comprehensive plan for law enforcement. This plan, which has been in development for over a year, consists of four key components: strengthening general law enforcement, improving police officer training, implementing a new action plan for sexual offences, and significantly enhancing measures against organised crime.

According to Vísir, the plan involves the creation of 80 new positions to bolster law enforcement efforts. These positions will be distributed as follows: 10 new police officers to be stationed throughout the country, 10 specialists to carry out various police duties, 10 additional border guards, 10 officers dedicated solely to combating organised crime, and 10 officers tasked with investigating and prosecuting sexual offences.

In discussing the plan, Jón Gunnarsson emphasised the importance of optimising human capital and improving coordination between police departments in order to ensure the most effective and efficient use of resources. “There are challenging times ahead of us,” he noted, “but we remain committed to getting the best possible outcomes for the people we serve.”

Room for improvement in many areas

National Police Commissioner Sigríður Björk Guðjónsdóttir expressed her satisfaction with the news of an increase in police officers. For years, she noted, the police force has been understaffed, which has severely impeded their ability to carry out their duties. “There is a lot of room for improvement in many areas,” she added.

Justice Minister Jón Gunnarsson echoed Sigríður’s sentiments, telling Vísir that while progress in some areas of law enforcement may be seen as early as this year, others will take more time. He emphasised the importance of educating and training police officers, but also highlighted the immediate results already achieved in cases of sexual offences and violence.

“We have taken the first steps towards building a stronger police force,” Jón Gunnarsson said, “which will ultimately make our citizens safer and better protected.”

A new action plan for sexual offences

A comprehensive plan to tackle sexual offences has also been put in place, including an increase in the number of people investigating and prosecuting such crimes, as well as a bolstering of the system itself. According to Jón, the results have been “unquestionable.”

“The fight will probably never end, but it starts with society becoming involved in the fight against violent and sexual crimes: that we show concern as opposed to looking the other way – and help and report if we become aware of something untoward.”

Over the past year, the Ministry of Justice, in collaboration with the police and other interested parties, launched a campaign to raise awareness about sexual offences. The aim of the campaign was to increase the number of reports. According to the National Police Commissioner, this campaign has proven successful:

“We are hoping that this does not mean an increase in the number of cases, but that the number of people reporting on these cases is increasing. With the increase in the number of reports, however, it means that more officers are needed so that the rate of cases can become acceptable,” Sigríður told Vísir.

The expediting of sexual-offence cases

As noted by Vísir, the processing time of sexual offences in Iceland has long been criticised, although that time has reportedly been shortened over recent months:

“We want, of course, to expedite these cases as much as possible, but we must not forget that technical research also needs to be done: phones need to be studied, biometrics, etc. There are all kinds of things that simply take time. This will never be something you handle in a few days, but we can do much better and plan to do much better,” Sigríður stated.

It is not only the investigative aspect of such crimes that has taken a long time, however, but court proceedings, as well. District prosecutor Ólafur Þór Hauksson stated that such a thing was not limited to sexual offence cases.

“We’ve been criticised, as far as other offences are concerned, for taking too long, but when we examine the processing of such cases abroad, we see that they also take quite a long time. There has, however, been a special effort to expedite the processing of sexual offences,” Ólafur remarked.

Organised crime on the rise

As far as organised crime is concerned, the response of law enforcement is being greatly bolstered. The district attorney will chair a special steering committee for the establishment of interdepartmental investigative teams. They are meant to analyse and prioritise organised-crime cases.

“The number of these cases has been increasing so that more work, more hands, has been required. And this increase that is being announced [in this plan] is primarily aimed at increasing the number of staff so that this can be done faster and that the system has more capacity,” Ólafur observed.

The Minister of Justice stated that big steps were being taken in dealing with recent, worrying trends:

“These are issues that extend beyond the borders, which show no respect for borders, and require a lot of expertise. We cooperate with foreign police authorities, and this requires a lot of cooperation between police departments, and even with the tax authorities, and other parties, within the country,” Jón observed.

New Crime Bill Includes Upwards of 1 Billion ISK in Funding, Increased Police Powers

Dómsmálaráðherra Ríkisstjórn Alþingi Jón Gunarsson

Following Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson’s declaration of a “war on organised crime” after the recent knife attacks in a Reykjavík nightclub, Icelandic police are set to receive ISK 500 million (3.5 million USD, 3.3 million EUR) in funding for the establishment of special investigation teams.

See also: New Police Bill Approved by Cabinet

In an interview with RÚV, the minister stated: “It is absolutely necessary to take drastic measures to stop the development that is taking place in Icelandic society when it comes to organised crime.”

Included in the new crime bill is the ability for Icelandic police to now monitor individuals, not under concrete suspicion of having committed a crime, but merely for connections to known criminals. The police will now also be able to monitor places known to be associated with organised crime, in addition to writing “preventative search warrants.”

Such warrants will lower the standard for probable cause, allowing Icelandic police to issue search warrants on suspicion of criminal activity.

According to the budget proposals for the new crime legislation which was submitted to parliament this week, ISK 500 million are expected to go to Icelandic police to strengthen their response to organised crime. Much of the new funding is expected to go to the establishment of special investigation teams against organised crime.

See also: Minister of Justice to Declare War on Organised Crime

The budget committee has also proposed an additional ISK 750 million (5,3 million USD, 5 million EUR) to address “weaknesses in police operations” throughout the country. Of these new funds, ISK 650 million are to be allocated to general operations and training, with another ISK 50 million each going to equipment and investigations.

The budget committee stated that the new funds aim to “improve the quality of investigations, shortening case turnover, improving operations in rural areas, and improving equipment in the fields of digital and technical investigations.”


Minister of Justice to Declare War on Organised Crime

Jón Gunnarsson Alþingi

Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson has announced his intention to wage war against organised crime following the knife attacks in a Reykjavík club last week, which have been taken as signs of gang warfare.

On Thursday night, November 17, a group of masked and armed men stormed a Reykjavík nightclub, stabbing three men, who were since transported to the ER.

Of the nearly 30 men involved in the attack, already some 14 have been apprehended by the police. Two are suspected to have fled the country, with the police now searching for the remaining suspects.

Read more: Petrol Bombs and Threats of Retaliation Following Knife Attack

According to Minister Jón Gunnarsson, the incident reveals a problem with organised crime in a nation generally upheld for its security.

In response to the minister’s call for a “war on crime,” efforts are now being prepared to attack the root causes of organised criminality in Iceland.

The Minister has also expressed his desire to strengthen police powers, with what Jón Gunnarsson calls “preventative warrants,” allowing for “proactive investigation.” Such measures have been controversial in Alþingi, but Jón Gunnarsson has stated that his proposals would be “harmless.”

Such warrants would allow police to monitor individuals associated with known criminals and criminal activity, without themselves being found guilty of any crime.

The proposed measures would also add tasers to the police arsenal. Currently, Icelandic police officers only carry batons and pepper spray in the field.

In a statement to Vísir, the Minister said: “The steps we take may prove to be controversial, I have no doubt about that. Both of these new authorisations, for preventative warrants and weapons for the police, may be controversial, but we have to do it.”


Two Shootings Cause Concern Among Reykjavík Residents

police car

A man was shot in downtown Reykjavík on Saturday night, only days after two people were shot in the Grafarvogur neighbourhood on the outskirts of the city. Both shootings appear to be the result of a personal conflict and neither incident has resulted in death, although the woman shot last week suffered serious injuries. Despite these incidents, Icelandic police have stated that the general public is not at increased risk from firearms.

General public not the target of armed attacks

Three men were arrested in the shooting that occurred last Saturday night in downtown Reykjavík, though one has now been released. All of the men are Icelandic and under 20 years old. The wounded man was brought to hospital and according to Vísir was not in critical condition. In last week’s shooting, a man and woman were wounded and the woman’s injuries were serious but not critical.  Vísir’s sources state that the weapon used was a 3D-printed firearm but the police have not issued any information on the firearm in question. Professor of Sociology Helgi Gunnlaugsson told RÚV that while the does not indicate that the general public is at increased risk from violent crime, it is a cause for concern if young men in Iceland are choosing to solve conflicts with weapons. Chief Superintendent Grímur Grímsson told Vísir. “When two shootings occur over the course of a week, it’s not unusual for people to wonder and be concerned. We believe that both of these cases were incidents where people point firearms at other people they know. So we do not believe that there is cause to be worried about the general public being shot.”

Police shut down websites that sell firearms

Runólfur Þórhallsson, Superintendent of the National Police Commissioner’s Analytical Department, says it is not out of the question for clashes between criminal groups to impact the public. Mostly, though: “It could cause fear. That is a very bad development in our small, peaceful society. But we are not seeing that their goal is to use weapons against the general public, these are first and foremost clashes between criminals.”

Rúnólfur says police have been monitoring an increase in the use of firearms over the past several years. Icelandic police closely monitor websites that sell firearms, for example, and have even managed to take down a few. Rúnólfur admits that police could do better when it comes to preventative policing, but it would require more manpower. “This is especially true of organised crime,” he stated.

Read more: Gun-ownership in Iceland (for subscribers)

Weapons for police not necessary

Icelandic police do not carry guns as part of their standard equipment, though the police force has special armed units to respond to situations involving firearms. Rúnólfur does not consider it necessary to increase the use of weapons by police officers. “There was both a survey among police officers and we know that both the public and the government are of the opinion that general law enforcement [officers] do not need to be armed. Although these have been serious events in the past few days, we still consider that to be the case.”

Nevertheless, such cases are a challenge for police, who Rúnólfur says do need to increase the number of officers, something that the force has been trying to do for over a decade. “It just hasn’t been successful, unfortunately, we are still in a similar situation to the one we were in in 2007, so it’s clear we have to pull up our sleeves.”

Trapped Season 3: Filming Begins in North Iceland

Ófærð (Trapped)

Filming of the third season of Icelandic crime drama Trapped (Ófærð) is scheduled to begin shortly in Siglufjörður, North Iceland, reports. Between 60 and 80 people will be working on the shoot, which is to take place between September 24 and October 9. Both season one and two of the popular show were filmed in part in Siglufjörður.

All cast and crew will be staying at hotels and guesthouses in the town of 1,174. One scene will be filmed at the Siglufjörður swimming pool, which will be closed to the public for the duration of filming. The gym and sports facilities at the same location will remain open.

Iceland’s largely successful response to COVID-19 has made it possible for many large-scale film projects to go ahead as planned this year. Regulations have been put in place, however, to minimise the risk of transmission. Presently, production companies in Iceland must apply for a special filming permit that allows actors to be exempted from distancing rules. A COVID safety supervisor must be on set at all times, and makeup and costuming staff are required to wear masks, as is the film crew in spaces where distancing cannot be maintained. Cast and crew will all have their temperature taken daily when arriving on set.

The Trapped team has been working on the show’s third season since as early as December 2018.

Police on Alert for Rise in Quarantine-Related Crimes

Icelandic police

Police are closely monitoring cybercrime, crimes committed in the home, and domestic drug production while Icelanders are (self-)quarantining and the gathering ban is in effect, Vísir reports. The ban, which went into effect this week, prohibits gatherings of 20 or more people and is intended to prevent the further spread of the COVID-19 virus. Fréttablaðið reports that there’s already a shortage of cocaine in the country, as passenger flights have ground to a halt. According to Capital-area police chief Karl Steinar Valsson, people staying home more may also lead to a spike in these crimes.

A COVID-related slow in imports and a reduction of travellers entering the country has considerably reduced the availability of illegal substances like cocaine in Iceland. Fréttablaðið’s sources report that most of the country’s supplies have run dry and what little is left is being kept under wraps to drive up prices. Amphetamine is still available and domestic production of marijuana can respond to demand. Karl Steinar noted that the sale of narcotics is where organized crime makes the majority of its money. As such, when it becomes challenging to import drugs, these organizations are quick to start producing them domestically. “If there’s a temporary shortage of cocaine,” he explained, “then amphetamines are produced instead. That’s, of course, what we’ve seen before.”

As the gathering ban has put a temporary stop to weekend partying at bars and clubs in Iceland, Karl Steinar says that changes in users’ consumption patterns must be taken into account as well. However, he says that it is currently unclear how these changes will manifest. Fréttablaðið’s sources add that “businessmen who’ve been coming two, three times a week have stopped buying and are spending time with their families instead.”

Karl Steinar told reporters that it’s too early to say if there’s been a significant increase in criminal activity in the wake of the ban but says, for instance, that burglaries of businesses can be expected to increase while most employees work from home. An increase in domestic abuse is also a concern. “There are a lot of people working from home, and so naturally, there could be a rise in crimes committed in the home. We’ve haven’t yet seen this happen, but we’re monitoring very closely, both domestic violence and child abuse and crimes of that nature.”

Cybercrime is also likely to increase, he continued. “People are shopping online a lot and doing all sorts of things online from home that weren’t being done to the same extent before. There are thousands of websites popping up that offer you all kinds of protective devices to prevent you from being infected [with COVID-19]. They are offering products that have clearly not been certified or anything like that.”


Man in Custody Suspected of Trafficking

missing woman

The Land’s Court has extended the custody of a man who is suspected of trafficking dozens of people to the country, RÚV reports. The man is from Pakistan, but his identity remains unclear. Police believe it likely the man has also committed fraud and money laundering, and has exploited foreign nationals lacking a work or residence permit in Iceland by selling them forged documents.

The court has extended his custody, which began in early October, until December 7. The custody order from the District Court of Reykjanes reveals that various foreign nationals worked in Iceland using his kennitala (social security number) in different jobs, the salaries for which were deposited to his bank account.

Police were tipped off on the man by a traveller at Keflavík airport who attempted to use a false passport to enter the country. He told authorities he would be picked up at the airport by the suspect, now in custody.

A search of two apartments on Snorrabraut leased to the man led to several arrests and passport confiscations. The suspect had a safety deposit box at Arionbanki bank, where police discovered euros, pounds, a telephone, and a tablet.

A statement from the Suðurnes police chief says the investigation is in full swing. The case is a sensitive one, as the man is suspected of organised crime across borders and is believed to have collaborators. Icelandic police have sought assistance from foreign authorities in the matter.