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Pickpockets steal a wallet every hour in Helsinki

Thieves are preying on the thousands of tourists in Helsinki this summer. Some 700 wallets were reported stolen to police between May and June, which equals nearly one theft per hour.

Mies viemässä toisen lompakkoa tämän takataskusta.
Police say pickpockets work in well-organised gangs that coordinate their shifts. Image: Mikko Kuusisalo / Yle

This summer bag-snatchers have targeted the capital’s most popular tourist attractions including the Senate and Market squares by the south harbour and Töölö’s Temppeliaukio Church. Robberies have also been reported at public transport stations.

Tour guides and police say pickpockets are becoming increasingly brazen—one tourist’s wallet was lifted at the counter of Helsinki’s tourist information office.

According to police, the majority of the pickpockets in the city are Romanian Roma. Detective inspector Petri Juvonen says pickpocketing in the city centre has steadily increased compared to five years ago.

Nightlife easy target

Police recently set up stakeouts in downtown bars, where cutpurses have been stealing unsuspecting patrons’ PIN numbers and bank cards. Favourite targets include the Namu nightclub and party hang-outs along the main Aleksanterinkatu street.

Despite their efforts, officials say it’s very difficult to catch criminals in the act. Night club thieves are often Estonian and melt into the crowd easily, according to police.

But night-time revellers aren't the only ones who need to carefully mind their belongings. Samuli Lilja, who works at Helsinki’s tourist information office, says resourceful pickpockets have even disguised themselves as tourists in broad daylight to infiltrate excursions teeming with unsuspecting victims.

Siiri Tanner of the Helsinki Cathedral says bag-snatchers tend to quickly empty purses of valuables and leave IDs, making it easier to track down owners.

"Just last week we reunited an Austrian man with his wallet after finding him on Facebook," said Tanner of one lucky ending.

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