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Wednesday's papers: Knife crime, overdoses and a venue for world powers

Domestic outlets explore an uptick in violent crime and drug overdoses among young Finns.

Kynttilöitä ja kukkia Koskelan murhapaikalla.
Candles at the site of the Koskela killing, which shocked Finland last year. Image: Petteri Bülow / Yle

During the past month, police in Helsinki have been receiving reports from retailers about groups of youths—sometimes underage—buying knives, according to a top story in Helsingin Sanomat on Wednesday. In some cases, suspecting malicious intent, shops have refused young customers knives and small axes, although the law does not prevent children from making such purchases.

"The threshold for using a knife [on someone] has been worryingly low lately. In addition to individuals already familiar to the police, we are now seeing young people with no previous criminal background," Marko Forss, who heads the youth crime unit at Helsinki Police Department, told HS.

Helsinki teens' violent offences have repeatedly made headlines this spring. In the past week, police in the capital reported that an 18-year-old was suspected of stabbing a 14-year-old, who in turn attempted to stab another underage victim in an incident in the capital’s Jätkäsaari district.

Youth knife attacks have been taking place around the city since the start of the pandemic, according to police.

Investigators also said that one of the perpetrators in October's Vallila teenage murder case had purchased a knife from a downtown Clas Ohlson department store right before the attack.

"I've wondered if it's all, at some level, symptomatic of the pandemic and people being idle. That's my best guess. These acts rarely have a clear motive," Forss explained.

Drug overdoses

Swedish-language daily Hufvudstadsbladet meanwhile writes that every week an average of four people die of drug overdoses in Finland.

The number of people under 25 dying from drug overdoses has tripled since 2015, Pirkko Kriikku, a forensic toxicologist with public health institute THL, told HBL.

She said such deaths accelerated during the pandemic last year, when some 70 young people lost their lives to drug overdoses, noting that restrictions hit people who were already struggling to cope.

Another THL specialist, Inari Viskari, told the paper that Finland is not doing enough to prevent overdoses, saying, "if we had another disease that was claiming four lives a week, I think we would be doing a lot more."

Top summit?

US President Joe Biden has said he hopes to meet with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in June, according to tabloid Iltalehti, citing news agency AFP.

The idea of Helsinki being the site for a meeting between Biden and Putin arose again on Tuesday as news emerged that Biden is scheduled to confirm a number of summits in Europe next month.

Last month Biden suggested meeting in a third country to discuss topics including the situation in Ukraine and jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

In addition to Finland, Austria has expressed interest in hosting the summit.

In July of 2018, Finland hosted a summit between Putin and Donald Trump.

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