Cultural or ethnic conditions do not create gang crime. Problems linked to this stage of life are at the root of this kind of criminal behavior,” said youth researcher Tormod Oeia at NOVA (Norwegian Social Research). His doctoral thesis is the result of reports from over 12,000 Oslo youths. Oeia found that more immigrant youth became involved in criminal or anti- social behavior, but his explanation conflicts with many social anthropologists. Oeia believes that the Norwegian gangs of the 50s and 60s must be examined to understand the conditions that turn a few immigrant youths bad. “Norway had gangs, like the Frogner gang or the Blackie gang, long before non-Western immigration to Norway. Immigrant youth today are where Norwegian youth were over 30 years ago, and have taken up the social niche Norwegian youth had then,” Oeia told Dagsavisen. Inferior economic conditions, greater unemployment rates, lack of space and larger families force these kids out onto the streets, where there are no organized activities on offer for them. Immigrant parents are at sea when trying to help their children cope with a new education and employment system, creating greater challenges within the family, Oeia argues.
Oeia pointed out that Norway was concerned with gang violence long before non-Western immigration and the result was a concerted preventative effort, with the creation of community youth clubs just one of the measures. In the meantime, Norwegian society has changed, with more time devoted to families and a widespread rise in education and income. Oeia noted that criminality was most often explained as a reaction to racism, a line of reasoning he felt should be approached with caution. “I don’t want to explain away racism, but there is a clear parallel between immigrant gangs and Norwegian right-wing extremism in Norway. Both groups push honor, racism or clichés about ethnic pride to justify criminal acts,” Oeia said. His recipe is to emulate what worked for Norwegians. “Immigrant parents have it harder than Norwegian parents in the 50s. It is time to back youth and help them through school. We must increase preventative measures,” Oeia said.