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Police stats show violent crimes down in capital city region

The incidence of violent crime in Finland's capital city region has either fallen or remained the same for the last seven years, despite steady population growth.

Image: Marja Väänänen / Yle

Violent crimes are down in Finland's capital city area, according to police figures highlighted in a new analysis by Yle.

Since 2011, the number of crimes reported in the cities of Vantaa and Helsinki fell steadily in aggregate, while in Espoo and Kauniainen, the incidence of violent crime in relation to the number of residents has remained the same.

The absolute number of violent crimes in Vantaa and Helsinki has fallen in recent years, while in Espoo this number has grown.

"It is misleading to make conclusions that are based on absolute numbers, however, because crime goes up as the population increases," says Petri Danielsson, a planning officer with the University of Helsinki's Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy.

The population of the capital city region has grown steadily in the last seven years, and yet even so, the total number of violent crimes in 2017 was recorded at 8,300 in Helsinki, Vantaa, Espoo and Kauniainen – down from 10,500 in 2011.

Alcohol a contributing factor

Research has shown that a larger risk of violent incidents exists in areas with larger populations. Helsinki University's Danielsson says that places with more people moving about are more prone to experience crime.

"Big new public transport terminals can cause clear upticks in crime," he offers as an example.

He says another contributing factor is alcohol use. Areas with nightclubs and bars will likely see more violent offenses occur. Danielsson says that one way to mitigate this risk is to increase police presence in these areas.

"There is evidence that a visible police presence can prevent crime effectively," he says.

Nationwide trend shows similar improvement

In terms of the entire country, the most-recent data from the state-owned number cruncher Statistics Finland show that crimes against life and health in Finland as a whole decreased by 8.7 percent in the first three months of 2018, when compared with the first quarter of 2017.

A change of legislation in 2011 made several minor assaults subject to public prosecution in Finland, and after this the number of violent crimes that came to the attention of the police increased significantly.

This general trend started to decrease until 2015, when crimes statistics increased slightly. Since 2016, the numbers of reported offenses has been in decline once again.