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Finland 2014 Crime and Safety Report

Europe > Finland; Europe > Finland > Helsinki

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

With an excellent police force and a stable political and economic environment, Finland is a safe and secure environment for business, tourism, and living. Crime statistics remain low compared to the United States and other developed countries. 

Crime Threats 

Americans are seldom the victims of violent criminal acts, and most violent crimes committed in Finland go almost unnoticed by ordinary Finnish citizens, who more typically fall victim to crimes like burglaries and thefts. Non-violent crimes, such as petty theft and pick-pocketing, increase twofold during the warmer months. Personal robberies occur but are most often during late hours.

Violent crime fell six percent in 2013 from 2012, and the number of recorded robberies dropped seven percent. However, cases of fraud have grown considerably over the past year, by approximately nine percent. The biggest increase was in payment fraud, which saw an increase of over 20 percent. Sexual assaults do occur but are much lower than are reported in other European countries. 

Organized crime activities primarily consist of activities associated with smuggling, human trafficking, prostitution, and drugs. In the past few years, Finland has been tightening its borders and increasing its investigations into human trafficking. Criminal organizations, such as motorcycle clubs, continue to be of great interest to police who have dedicated additional resources toward combating their activities. Police believe that the three most active criminal organizations are: the Hell’s Angels, the Bandidos, and Cannonball motorcycle clubs, which have more than 40 chapters around the country. Police calculate that there are 80 organized crime groups in Finland. Drug trafficking and providing security services are their primary sources of income. Police have reported that these groups have been stockpiling weapons and are concerned that a turf war between rival gangs may be imminent. Motorcycle gangs are not known to bother average citizens, and violence typically occurs within the gangs. 

According to 2013 statistics, over 40 percent of Finnish prisoners were incarcerated for some sort of violent offense, and approximately 60 percent serve sentences shorter than two years. Finland has seen an increase in arrests and incarceration of both legal and illegal foreign nationals. Foreigners make up about 15 percent of prisoners, with Estonians accounting for the greatest percentage. Romanians have surpassed Russians as the second-largest group, according to the Criminal Sanctions Agency. Even so, Finland still has Europe's second-lowest per-capita prison population, with about 60 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants. 

Alcohol is the major social ill that contributes to criminal activity. Violent crime is relatively rare but assaults do occur, particularly in clubs frequented by young people. Especially in greater Helsinki, it is not uncommon to encounter individuals who are visibly intoxicated, and these individuals are often encountered on public transportation and in the same areas frequented by visitors and tourists. Public drunkenness is more pronounced after dark, on weekends, and during holidays. Crimes associated with the use of alcohol remain the largest challenge for local law enforcement and present the greatest risk to visitors. Of incidents involving street violence, 80 percent of perpetrators have been under the influence of alcohol. 

Overall Road Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions 

Finnish roadway systems are paved, well maintained, and generally well lit. All drivers must yield to traffic that is entering the roadway on the right. Drivers operating a motorized vehicle are required to possess a valid driver’s license, and all drivers must adhere to strict local traffic laws. Road conditions during the winter can become very dangerous, and numerous fatalities are reported from traffic accidents every winter. Drivers are required to use snow tires from December to March. Local authorities enforce DWI laws rigorously and may administer field sobriety inspections at their discretion. 

In 2013, there were just over 5,000 traffic accidents involving injury, resulting in 6,670 injured and 258 persons killed. The number killed in 2013 compared to 2012 was four times higher, but the number injured was over 400 lower. Traffic fatalities have steadily declined since a peak in 1990. Accident rates are higher in winter months due to icy road conditions. 

Finland has one of the safest public transportation systems in the world. It is rare for an accident to occur with any rail transportation. Finnair was recently named among the safest airlines in the world. Ferry transportation is abundant, well maintained, and regulated. 

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

Although the Nordic and Baltic regions have seen an increase in terrorist activity and threat reporting in recent years, Finland has not experienced any significant terrorist incidents or threats. Recent terrorist events in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark have elevated Finnish police awareness. However, leading terrorist experts in Finland believe that the threat of terrorism in Finland remains low. Authorities are cognizant of the regional terrorism threat and are proactive in combating potential attacks. The Finnish Security Intelligence Service (SUPO) has instituted reforms based on lessons learned in other Nordic countries to combat terrorism. These include increased intelligence sharing and outreach to local minority communities. Since 2003, six individuals have been charged under Finnish terrorism laws for their support of the terrorist organization al-Shabaab. These cases are on-going.

Civil Unrest 

The U.S. Embassy is rarely targeted by demonstrators, and anti-U.S. demonstrations have been peaceful. 

Anarchist rallies occasionally occur in downtown Helsinki, but few are violent. A recent exception was an anarchist demonstration on December 6, 2013 (Finnish Independence Day) outside of a celebration hosted by the Finnish President in Tampere. The demonstration resulted in minor injuries to several police officers and police horses, and 28 demonstrators were arrested. 

This type of incident is rare, however, thanks to the security policy to deploy a large police presence at events to keep control of the situation from the outset, and a Finnish public that does not tolerate violent demonstrations. 

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards 

Visitors should expect long, cold winters with prolonged periods of darkness. Proper clothes and layering are essential as are other precautions like snow tires on vehicles. Some visitors may be negatively affected by the lack of sunlight. Products, such as UV lights or “happy lights,” may provide some relief symptoms caused by lack of daylight. 

Industrial and Transportation Accidents 

Due to strict workplace safety rules, industrial and transportation accidents are rare, and there have been no recent significant industrial accidents affecting Americans in Finland. 

Economic Espionage/Intellectual Property Thefts

Finland is a high tech economy with highly technological corporate operations and research facilities. As a result, according to the Finnish Security and Intelligence Service, it is an ideal target for corporate espionage. From 2009 to 2011, 12 percent of Finnish companies reported illegal information gathering. Chemical and energy companies were most frequently targeted. 

Finland subscribes to numerous European and international intellectual property agreements and treaties. There have been no recent reports of significant intellectual property theft incidents affecting Americans in Finland. 

Privacy Concerns

Finland is a very “wired” country, which creates opportunities for criminals to access and exploit citizens’ personal data. Visitors should employ the same online privacy protections as they would anywhere else in the world. 

Drug-related Crimes

Finnish police report an increase in narcotics offenses, with a rise of 13 percent for minor offenses and 20 percent for aggravated offenses. However, hard drug use remains relatively rare, and Finland continues to be primarily a transit point, not an end-use destination.

Police Response

Police response to emergency situations is excellent within the city of Helsinki. Most police officers speak English. Police assets, although capable, are very limited in rural areas and tend to be more reactive than preventative. 

Additional police resources have proven effective against criminal organizations; arrests, seizures of drugs, weapons, and some explosives are increasing.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Police harassment is practically unheard of, as police are routinely ranked as the least corruptible law enforcement in the world. Anyone attempting to bribe a Finnish police officer should expect to be arrested. If you feel you have been the victim of police harassment, it is recommended that you file a report with the Finnish Ministry of Interior or police ombudsman on police harassment, or consult with an attorney.

U.S. citizens should report all incidents of police detention to the U.S. Embassy Helsinki, American Citizen Services (ACS), at telephone +358-40-140-5957, 2 pm – 4 pm, Monday through Thursday, or outside these hours at +358-9-616-250. You may also email ACS at HelsinkiACS@state.gov. 

Where to Turn to for Assistance if you Become a Victim of Crime

If you are a victim of a crime, contact the police by dialing 112, which is the Finnish equivalent of dialing 911 in the U.S. Most police dispatchers speak English. 

Various Police/Security Agencies 

The police force totals 10,900 persons, of which approximately 7,800 are police officers. There are 11 local precincts, each with a central police station, and three national units. 

The Finnish Security Intelligence Service (SUPO) is responsible for combating crime and other activity as it threatens internal and external security. 

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is responsible for investigating organized and professional crime. 

The Police College of Finland is responsible for recruitment, all training, and research and development of police tactics and standards. 

The Finnish traffic police, an institution since 1930, was disbanded in 2013 as part of a nationwide restructuring. The responsibility for traffic surveillance now falls to local precincts. 

Medical Emergencies

Dialing 112 is the fastest way to have medical emergencies addressed and to request an ambulance. 
 
Medical facilities and their staff are excellent and are widely available for emergency services. English is commonly spoken by medical personnel. The public hospital system and many private hospitals honor foreign credit cards. 

If you are as a tourist or temporarily visiting Finland and you require immediate emergency medical assistance (trauma, life or death cases), you may visit a local medical center or clinic, called “ensiapuasema” (first-aid station). Usually, the first-aid station is located at the district hospital, where it is possible to provide a full range of services as needed. Patients should be prepared to present their passports. If your injury or your medical need is a minor one, then most private clinics are able to provide you with the assistance you require. 

If you are living permanently in Finland and you require primary health care service, you should first contact your local health center. Residents of the municipalities can book appointments in a health center by themselves. Access to specialized medical care requires a referral from a health center physician or private practitioner for non-emergency cases. 

Travelers with special medical needs should consult with their personal physician and take appropriate precautions, including bringing adequate supplies of necessary medication. Medicines may be brought into the country as long as they are intended for the traveler's personal use. Medications categorized as narcotics may only be brought into the country to cover the traveler's personal use for a maximum of 14 days and must be accompanied by a medical certificate stating why the traveler needs them. There are special requirements referring to quantity of dose that can be brought into the country. For more detail information, please contact the Finnish Embassy at Washington D.C. sanomat.was@formin.fi

In addition, stringent Finnish customs regulations prohibit travelers from receiving drugs from abroad after having arrived in the country. Travelers may also find local physicians reluctant to prescribe equivalent quantities or dosages. Prescriptions are dispensed at pharmacies ("apteekki" in Finnish.) Most pharmacies are open during normal shopping hours, but major cities have a 24-hour pharmacy. 

Contact Information for Recommended Local Hospitals and Clinics

The Embassy assumes no responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the facilities listed below.

Eira Lääkäriasema 
Laivurinkatu 29
Telephone: 09-162-0570
Clinic is attached to private hospital. Additional services include laboratory, radiology, and physical therapy departments. Will refer if necessary to treatment. Private facility. 

Mehiläinen Sairaala (hospital)* Lääkärikeskus (clinic)
Pohjoinen Hesperiankatu 17 - Runeberginkatu 47 (corner)
Telephone: 010-4140112 
24 hr. emergency services. Will refer to larger public facility if necessary for treatment. Clinic attached to private hospital. Complete radiology department including MRI capability, laboratory services, foot clinic available. Private facility. Private children's clinic, open Mon.-Sat. 7:30 am - 8:00 pm, Sun. 9 am - 8:00 pm. Full range of expert care for 0 – 18 year olds. 

Meilahti Hospital 
Haartmaninkatu 4
Telephone:09-4711
24 hr. emergency services. Cardiology, respiratory medicine, infectious diseases, general internal medicine, soft tissue emergency surgery. This is a public hospital; you will be charged as a private patient. 

Töölö Hospital 
Topeliuksenkatu 5
Telephone:09- 4711
24 hr. emergency services. Multiple traumas, broken bones, burns, intensive care, neurosurgery. This is a public facility; you will be charged as a private patient. 

Women's Hospital 
Haartmaninkatu 2
Telephone: 09-4711
24 hr. emergency services for ob/gyn only. Newborn ICU. This is a public facility; you will be charged as a private patient. 

Dextra 
Munkkivuori Medical Center 
Raumantie 1 A
Telephone: 09-560-160
Private facility. Clinic, radiology, laboratory. 

Recommended Air Ambulance Services

Helsinki is a frequent medical evacuation point for emergency cases from the countries of the former Soviet Union.

Jet Flight: +358-020-510-1911 

CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC’s Internet site at www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at www.who.int/ith.

Further medical information for Finland can be found at http://finland.usembassy.gov/medical_information.html.

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Areas to be Avoided 

During the evening hours, travelers are advised to remain vigilant when in proximity of the downtown train station area and the Kaisaniemi Park. Assaults occasionally occur in these areas.

Best Situational Awareness Practices 

Visitors should use the same common sense as they would when visiting anywhere else. As a general rule, people should be alert to their surroundings and keep control of all personal belongings (especially passports), especially when in crowded public places, such as airports, public transportation areas, and markets. 

Visitors to Helsinki during the summer months should especially take caution. Professional pick-pockets from neighboring countries come to target unsuspecting tourists who may let down their guard. 

While the majority of intoxicated individuals are non-violent, visitors who observe visibly intoxicated individuals are advised to avoid direct contact so as to minimize the possibility of an incident.

The Embassy strongly recommends that American citizens avoid large public gatherings, especially political rallies and demonstrations, due to the potential for violence. If a demonstration is encountered, the visitor should immediately leave the area.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation 

Itäinen Puistotie 14 B
00140 Helsinki
Finland

Embassy operating hours are Monday to Friday, 8 am to 5 pm. but some sections within the Embassy may have different hours. All offices are closed on Saturday, Sunday, and on American and Finnish holidays. 

Embassy Contact Numbers

Main Embassy Switchboard/Operator: +358-9-616-250

*For an American citizen emergency, 24/7, please call the main Embassy number and follow instructions. 

Regional Security Office, American Citizen Services, and Marine Post One are available 24/7 by contacting the Embassy switchboard.

American Citizen Services (ACS) Contact Information:
Appointments: Consular services are by appointment only; appointments may be made by e-mailing mailto:HelsinkiACS@state.gov. 
Phone hours: +358-40-140-5957, 2 pm - 4 pm, Monday through Thursday. Consular does not accept calls for visa inquiries. Email: helsinkiACS@state.gov

OSAC Country Council Information

Helsinki has an active OSAC Country Council that meets on a regular basis and is led by Mikko Rautiainen from Citi. Please contact Mikko at mikko.rautiainen@citi.com or the U.S. Embassy Regional Security Office at HelsinkiRSO@state.gov; tel: 358 (0) 9-616-250.