Considerable increase in the number of violent offences – lower traffic volumes but more cases of speeding - Police
Considerable increase in the number of violent offences – lower traffic volumes but more cases of speeding
The year 2020 was exceptional in many ways, and the Covid-19 pandemic affected the day-to-day work of the police in Helsinki, and the city’s crime statistics, in diverse ways.
Owing to the various restrictions and protective measures, illness rates among police personnel were lower than usual. Since many training sessions had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus, the police had better resources than in normal circumstances, and this was reflected for example in more efficient traffic control measures. More resources than usual have been available for emergency response and law enforcement operations, which is reflected in better operational response times.
The restrictions caused by Covid-19 were particularly evident in the licence services of the police. Last year, the number of passport applications was 42,000 lower than in the previous year.
The large-scale data breach of Psychotherapy Centre Vastaamo, resulting 6,470 crime reports being filed with the Helsinki Police Department alone, caused a significant exception in the crime statistics for 2020. This case largely explains the 16.5 rise in property crime, as extortion offences are recorded in that category.
Considerable increase in the numbers of aggravated assault and attempted manslaughter
Last year, the total number of homicides reported to the police in Helsinki was six, three less than a year before. Instead, the numbers of attempted manslaughter and aggravated assault have increased remarkably.
“No single factor to explain the rise in occurrence can be detected with regard to these offences. More often than before, many offences are indicative of the use of narcotic substances or disagreements relating to drug trafficking. Mental health problems are also typical for the parties involved in the most severe violent offences,” says Senior Detective Superintendent Jari Koski.
He thinks that the coronavirus situation may also contribute to the increasing number of violent crime.
“With restaurants being closed, intoxicants have been used outdoors, or in private residences, where there is no supervision present, such as a security steward or other outside party, who could interfere and maybe prevent a more serious violent incident from happening.”
The number of assaults committed in public places decreased by 11.4 per cent, but those in private premises increased by 13.4 per cent. The number of house calls increased by more than 37 per cent, that is, by 3,161.
“The number of emergency tasks declined in inner city areas where there are many restaurants. However, the total number of offences has increased in some residential areas. As to house calls, the number of cases in which the police has been called to the scene due to excessive noise in a private apartment, has risen in particular. As people spend more time at home, the going can get so tough that it becomes disruptive,” says Superintendent Seppo Kujala, head of the emergency response and law enforcement unit.
Narcotic substances traded online openly
An increasing number of narcotics offences were reported to the police in Helsinki: 6,713 cases in 2020, up by 1,203 year-on-year, that is, almost 22 per cent. The narcotics trade has largely moved from the streets to the internet.
“Previously, the aim was to keep drug trafficking secret, but now, narcotics are sold quite openly online. Today, much more detailed information than before is recovered by the police about the transactions in which drugs are bought and sold,” says Senior Detective Superintendent Markku Heinikari.
“In many cases, precise information about a suspect’s history of buying and selling drugs can be discovered. This has raised the number of crime reports and simultaneously, the ability of the police to prevent online drug trade improves constantly. This is likely to increase the number of detected narcotics offences even in the future.”
As an example, Heinikari mentions the Silkkitie web server seized by Finnish Customs. On the basis of information discovered on the server, more than 300 crime reports were recorded by the Helsinki Police Department in 2020, and these include about 500 separate offence categories of various types of narcotics offences.
The increasing use of narcotics is also reflected in cases of drunken driving, of which 61.6 per cent were related to narcotics last year.
Lower traffic volumes but higher incidence of traffic offences
In Helsinki, the incidence of drunken driving increased last year, as did that of all types of traffic offences. According to Superintendent Heikki Porola, the coronavirus had an impact on this.
“We had good resources for carrying out traffic surveillance and on the other hand, traffic volumes were lower in Helsinki because people were working remotely and travel was restricted. This means that people were not queueing in traffic jams and there was less traffic. So, for example cases of speeding were easy to detect, and their number went up by 1,136 from the previous year,” says Porola.
Passports not renewed as travel was not possible
Last year, the number of passports issued by Helsinki Police Department declined by over 42,000 from 2019. The applications for ID cards declined by 18.9 per cent year-on-year.
“Many people decided not to apply for a passport because they could not travel. This may result in a rush, when the restrictions are eventually lifted and passports have expired. As to ID cards, applications peaked in 2019 because driving licences were no longer valid as proof of identity for example for passport applications,” says Superintendent Pekka Kallio of licence services.