Crime in Finland, just how safe is the happiest country in the world?

True story. In 2011, a newspaper in Finland reported on an alleged shoplifter, who was accused of eating part of a pickle without paying for it. He had put the rest of the pickle back. Needless to say the store was forced to dispose of the contaminated pickles.

Another true story. Around 2010, a man sprinted across a snowy Hakaniemi Square carrying a jacket that he’d shoplifted from a nearby store. A security guard pursued. He grabbed the man’s leg and brought him down on the icy sidewalk at the corner of Hakaniemen ranta and John Stenbergin ranta.“Stop or I’ll use spray,” he said in halting English as they wrestled. Threatened by the pepper spray, the shoplifter gave up and was compliantly escorted back to the store.

Finland crime

Crime in Finland is rare and low scale. The past few weeks offer a slight variation on this story though. On 9 September, police raided an apartment in the Jätkäsaari neighborhood, searching for a man who had robbed a nearby convenience store the day before, apparently with a gun. Police thanked citizens for helping to identify the man, who was arrested.

Police prepare to detain a criminal in Jätkäsaari, Helsinki.

Meanwhile, on 5 September, police shot a man in the city of Tampere who was threatening residents with two handguns. On 25 August, two police officers were shot and injured in Porvoo. Two suspects were apprehended following a high speed chase and have appeared in court. On 23 July, a shooting occurred at the intersection of Hietalahdenkatu and Porkkalankatu in central Helsinki.

All of the above are exceptional events. Crime in Finland is low. Some concern exists that in the coming years (and, yes, years, not next year or the year after), a significant increase in violent crime will occur, similar to what has been experienced in some areas of Sweden.

It’s too soon to know, though it’s highly possible that this occurs. In terms of public perceptions, many citizens will probably believe that crime is increasing amid a greater level of reporting and information dissemination. If you live in Finland and read the police Twitter account and Iltalehti instead of Helsingin Sanomat, you’ll probably feel nervous about the direction of society.

Now that we’ve mildly disparaged Iltalehti readers (among which SuloNorth is counted) let’s look at some data, namely Q1 and Q2 criminal offenses from 2015 to 2019

Crime in numbers

In terms of overall numbers, Finland appears to be even safer so far in 2019 (based on preliminary data), with a fall in total recorded offenses.

  • 398,630 (2015)
  • 396,331 (2016)
  • 427,594 (2017)
  • 424,219 (2018)
  • 326,543 (2019)

Of course, our question is what caused the rise in total offenses in 2017 and 2018? Will adjusted data for 2019 be dramatically different from what’s been published now?

We would like to be hitting refresh on the official statistics page and download the finalized data. But we’re not. Even for a country of only 5.5 million people, crime in Finland is remarkably low. Less than 2,000 residences were broken into during January to June 2019. Numbers of robberies have stayed about the same between January to June 2015 to 2019 at approximately 800.  

Narcotics offenses are up though, with 14,250 in 2019 compared to 11,749 in 2015. Sexual crimes have also increased include the sexual abuse of a child (from 629 in 2015 to 813 in 2019) and rape (from 481 in 2015 to 715 in 2019). Part of this increase is due to more reporting of these types of incidents, which is positive, but the overall rise is concerning. 

January to June 2019 also saw a notable rise in murders, rising to 41 from 34 in 2018. In 2015, the number was 46.

Keep it all in perspective. Finland’s Interior Ministry says that bicycles are the most common stolen object in Finland.

Published by Alina Lehtinen-Vela Helsinki, Finland.

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