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Police concerned about brewing underworld turf wars

Police are uncovering increasing numbers of firearms in the possession of organised criminal gangs. Law enforcers say that the apparent arms race may be a prelude to gang turf wars.

Bandidos -jengiläisiä
Police readings of the tea leaves suggest that gang warfare may be imminent. Image: Marius Becker / EPA

According to Finnish police local underworld groups appear to be amassing more fire power each year and seem to be placing more emphasis on arming their members.Detective Inspector Tapio Kalliokoski of the National Bureau of Investigation said that the development is worrying.

“”Firearms aren’t toys. They are acquired for a certain purpose, whether it be self defence against other gangs or then as a precaution. For years police have been concerned about whether we are about to see some kind of inter-gang conflict,” Kalliokoski said.

According to Kalliokoski the criminal gang situation has remained rather stable in Finland,but there have been some indications that some kind of instability is afoot.

“There has been a little unrest this year already. This shows partly in the number of guns, because the police believe that the number of weapons confiscated reflects how well-armed the gangs are,” he explained.

Four large groups on top

The police inspector pointed out that in terms of what police would term organised criminal groups, about 60 gangs are currently active in Finland. Some are so-called “shirt gangs”, which have identifiable symbols or colours. Others don’t use any kind of identifying features. The membership of these groups is estimated at around 1,000.

The four largest crime gangs have ruled the roost for a long time: Bandidos, Hell’s Angels (Finland), Cannonball and United Brotherhood. The larger groups may also have smaller affiliates with different names, but which are loyal to the larger organisation.

Membership growing

Finnish law defines a criminal gang as comprising at least three people that associates over a certain period of time with a certain structure and which cooperates to commit crimes that would draw a criminal penalty of at least four years in prison.

Other agreements with the international community and the European Union to which Finland is a signatory include other criteria such as the established or long-term nature of their activities as well as a relatively small turnover in membership.

Police point out that in recent years, groups defined as criminal enterprises by EU criteria have increased their memberships.

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