Crime in Helsinki is becoming more international and the number of youths causing concern is rising

Publication date 12.11.2020 9.00
News item

Most young people in Helsinki are doing well, but a small number of youths have symptoms and commit crimes. Some youngsters have accumulated more problems than before. A number of young people with symptoms have a foreign background.

“The police in Helsinki share the view of those doing youth work of young people who are causing concerns, and information is being shared continuously. The police file a child welfare report when a minor child has symptoms or when the police otherwise become concerned about a young person”, says Chief Inspector Katja Nissinen .

Helsinki Police Department and its partners have a shared goal of breaking the cycle of crime of as many youths as possible.

Narcotics and preparation with edged weapons are in the background of violent offences committed by young people

The total number of violent offences committed by minors reported to Helsinki Police Department in January–September decreased in comparison with the corresponding period last year. The number of basic assaults even declined somewhat.

However, Helsinki Police Department’s youth team investigating crimes by minors has noticed in its work that, more often than before, violent situations involve narcotic substances and robberies during sale of narcotics. Also, more young people have with them edged weapons that they, by their own accounts, usually carry “for their own protection”. This year there has been a clear increase in possession of various objects suitable for harming other people by young persons under 18 years of age.

In many serious violent offences, common denominators include a status of disadvantage and social exclusion. Problems with intoxicants and mental health are often reasons behind crimes committed by adults and young persons.

Suspected homicides and assaults committed by minors, reported to the police, in Helsinki in January–September 2020

2020 2019
Attempted manslaughter 4 0
Aggravated assault 8 7
Attempted aggravated assault 0 1
Assault 224 248
Attempted assault 8 3
Petty assault 42 49
total 286 308

This year, more than 150 reports of offences with over 200 suspects have been recorded for young people involving narcotics offences of varying degrees. Approximately 30 of these reports of offences involve sale of narcotic substances by minors. Robberies of various degrees have been recorded this year at around the same rate as last year, with about 70 reports of offences recorded at present. These usually have multiple suspects, because minor suspects of offences and especially robberies usually act as a group.

“Robberies made by groups often end once people come of age. The prognosis is worse for those guilty of narcotics offences, as some become members of narcotics organisations. Minors with an immigrant background are overrepresented particularly in cases of suspected sale of narcotics and robberies”, says Detective Inspector Marko Forss .

Helsinki Police Department’s youth team aims to efficiently prevent new offences by minors with different coercive measures, especially travel bans on minors and its electronically controlled form, enhanced travel ban. These measures have been used to keep minors in children’s homes, for instance, as child welfare services have had insufficient opportunities for intervening in such situations. It has been impossible to sufficiently prevent unauthorised absences by young people, for example.

Since March 2018, Helsinki Police Department has had a youth team that aims to break young people’s cycle of crime and intervene in criminal phenomena together with the Preventive Measures Group. Each young person in a crime cycle is assigned a “personal police officer” who investigates all suspected offences concerning the youth. The team also seeks to steer the child to the Children of the Station’s Pasila project, which tries to connect them to services provided by the authorities. The goal is that the personal police officer has a comprehensive overall picture of the youth’s situation that is charted from various official sources and in cooperation with, e.g. the Anchor group of the Preventive Measures Group, social welfare authorities, stakeholders, schools and parents.

Professional narcotics crime is growing and becoming more international

Based on observations made by Helsinki Police Department in the investigation of organised crime, the narcotics trade in Helsinki is highly international, and the significance of organised crime groups of foreign origins is becoming increasingly more highlighted. Many such criminal groups consist of professional criminals with the same ethnic origin who, due to their background, have close international connections all over Europe.

Some members of the groups live in the Helsinki metropolitan area, others only come to Finland to manage actions related to the import and distribution of narcotics. The groups are highly organised, and frequently a member apprehended by the police is quickly replaced by a new person.

“Foreign criminal groups operating in Finland and their international contacts control the entire chain of the narcotics trade, from purchasing and smuggling of drugs to receiving and distribution”, says Criminal Inspector Markku Heinikari .

In many criminal investigations, the first ethnic Finns are drug users. Outlaw motorcycle clubs, which are traditionally linked to organised crime, exist completely outside these groups. Proceeds of crime obtained from selling drugs are transported abroad from Finland.

Based on observations made in the investigation of organised crime, people have arrived in Finland from foreign countries to commit violent offences related to the narcotics trade. The drug trade and violence are closely linked together, and investigation of aggravated narcotics offences often exposes serious violent crimes, extortion and firearms offences. The narcotics trade is often the motive for other serious offences.

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