A man is in custody following an armed robbery Friday morning at Sparebank1, according to The Governor of Svalbard. According to officials and media reports, it is the first bank robbery in Longyearbyen’s history.
The robbery occurred at about 10:40 a.m., according to the governor’s office. The suspect was arrested less than 30 minutes later with a yet-to-be-determined amount of money and a firearm.
“The robber is a visiting man,” Terje Carlsen, a spokesman for the governor, wrote in a prepared statement. “He was arrested by the police shortly after the robbery. The man will be sent to the mainland today and will be presented for detention in Tromsø.”
The only other people in the bank during the robbery were three employees, Police Chief Lt. Vidar Arnesen told Svalbardposten.
“They triggered the alarm, and acted as they should,” he said.
The bank is closed for the rest of the day while police investigate the incident.
The robbery occurred as students at Longyearbyen School were departing for Christmas break after a short day, but were called back inside by the headmaster until the suspect was caught, said Anna Lena Ekeblad, whose son was at the school when it occurred.
Armed robberies are unknown in Longyearbyen, with NRK reporting it is the first local bank heist ever and the governor’s office stating it knows of no previous incident. Many local residents were shocked by its occurrence and expressed a bit of sardonic humor at the attempt to do in an isolated town where getaway possibilities are extreme limited.
“This lame case is going to go viral,” wrote Eva Grøndal, a longtime local resident, in one of numerous Facebook posts by residents after the news broke. “Absolutely everything is wrong. Think of an island with five miles of road and nowhere to go to.”
But many also stated the bizarreness of the crime shouldn’t overshadow the fact such a crime occurred here and the dangers people encountering the robber faced.
“I am thinking primarily of those who work in the bank and any other people who may have been affected,” Longyearbyen Mayor Arild Olsen wrote in a comment. “Outrageous and frightening to all. Of all things, a robbery is very far down the list of possible events here for us in Longyearbyen.”
“But after all Longyearbyen is still and must remain a safe place in future times. But it turns out that we, as elsewhere in the country, can end up in situations that we cannot count on.”