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Finland 2015 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 continues to be a safe and secure environment for business, tourism, and living.

Crime Rating: Low

Crime Threats

U.S. citizens are seldom the victims of violent criminal acts, and most violent crimes go almost unnoticed by Finnish citizens, who more typically fall victim to crimes such as burglaries and thefts. Personal robberies also occur but are most often during late hours. Non-violent crimes (petty theft, pickpocketing) increase twofold during the warmer months. 

It is not uncommon to see 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. While the majority of these 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. Alcohol contributes to criminal activity. 

Sexual assaults do occur, but their numbers are lower than are reported elsewhere in Europe. Violent crime is relatively rare but assaults do occur, particularly in clubs frequented by young people. 

Overall offenses fell 1.6 percent in 2014 from 2013. In particular, crimes against life and health (violent crime) fell 7.4 percent, and traffic-related offences fell 7.7 percent. However, as in previous years, cases of fraud continue to rise, up 3 percent from 2013. Also, 2014 saw a serious spike in robberies, up 11 percent from the previous year. 

Organized crime primarily consists 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 resources, which have proven effective, toward combating their activities. Arrests, seizures of drugs, weapons, and some explosives are increasing. Police believe that the three most active criminal organizations are Hell’s Angels, Bandidos, and Cannonball motorcycle clubs. There are more than 40 chapters around the country. Police calculate that there are 80 organized crime groups in Finland, including these chapters. Drug trafficking and providing security services are the primary sources of income for these organizations. 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. 

Cyber

Finnish media have reported increases in cyber crime from 2013. In December 2014, two major banks’ online banking systems were hacked. Authorities believe that the majority of perpetrators operate overseas, making them very difficult to track. In 2013, Finland started the National Cyber Security Centre, which automatically notifies teleoperators if a contaminated computer is detected in a Finnish network. However, only a small fraction of cyber crimes are brought to the attention of police, and many users are unaware that they are victims of cyber crime. 

Areas of Concern

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.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions 

Roadways are paved, well maintained, and generally well illuminated. All drivers must yield to traffic entering the roadway on the right. Drivers operating a motor vehicle are required to have a valid driver’s license, and all drivers must adhere to strict traffic laws. Traffic fatalities have steadily declined since a peak in 1990. There were 7.7 percent fewer cases of endangerment of traffic safety and traffic infractions registered in 2014 compared to 2013. 

Authorities rigorously enforce drunk driving laws and may administer field sobriety inspections at their discretion. Cases of drunken driving decreased 2.2 percent compared to 2013.

Accident rates are higher in winter months due to icy road conditions. Road conditions during the winter can become very dangerous, and numerous fatalities are reported from accidents every winter. Drivers are required to use snow tires from December to March. 

Public Transportation 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. Ferry transportation is abundant, well maintained, and regulated. 

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Finnair was recently named among the safest airlines in the world. 

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Political Violence Rating: Low

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/threats. Terrorist events in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark have elevated local police awareness. Additionally, the Finnish Security Intelligence Service (SUPO) estimates that approximately 50 Finnish citizens have joined the fight with ISIL in Syria. However, leading terrorist experts in Finland believe that the threat of terrorism remains low. Authorities are cognizant of the regional terrorism threat and are proactive in combating potential attacks. SUPO has instituted reforms based on lessons learned in other Nordic countries to combat terrorism, including increased intelligence sharing and outreach to local minority communities. 

Terrorism Rating: Low

Anti-American/Anti-Western Sentiment

Finland is typically very “pro-U.S.” Visitors and businesses should not expect anti-American or anti-Western sentiment. The U.S. Embassy is rarely targeted by demonstrators, and those protests against the U.S. have been peaceful.

Civil Unrest 

Overall, demonstrations are routinely held for a variety of causes. Visitors are advised to avoid large gatherings of people protesting. If a demonstration is encountered, visitors should immediately leave the area. 

Anarchist rallies occasionally occur in downtown Helsinki, but few are violent. A recent exception was when left-wing anarchists clashed with right-wing activists in downtown Helsinki in September 2014. Police were involved, and several arrests were made. 

For the second year in a row, there were demonstrations in December during Finnish Independence Day celebrations. While there was less violence than in 2013, protestors attempted to block access to the route to the Presidential Hall, and approximately 200 left-wing demonstrators caused an estimated €100,000 in damages. Approximately 20-30 activists were taken in to custody during the events. 

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. 

Critical Infrastructure Concerns 

Thanks to strict workplace safety rules, industrial accidents are rare, and there have been no recent significant industrial accidents affecting U.S. citizens in Finland. 

Economic Espionage/Intellectual Property Thefts

Finland’s is a high-tech economy with highly technological corporate operations and research facilities. As a result, according to SUPO, it is an ideal target for corporate espionage. Interested stakeholders -- from police and government authorities, to media, private corporations and data protection firms, and private citizens -- increasingly recognize the risks associated with leaks of corporate or personally identifiable information (PII). Finland is party to a number of international IP protection treaties, particularly within the EU. Finnish media regularly report on data security in order to raise awareness on what is a topic of interest to Finnish citizens. Finland is also home to a number of leading data protection companies who routinely offer seminars and talks on data protection and security. 

Privacy Concerns

Finland has a modern information technology infrastructure, which creates opportunities for criminals to access and exploit personal data. Visitors should employ the same online privacy protections as they would anywhere else in the world. 

Drug-related Crimes

In 2014, authorities reported that narcotics-related offences dropped four percent from 2013. Hard drug use remains relatively rare, and Finland is primarily a transit point as opposed to an end use destination.

Police Response

Police response to emergency situations is excellent within Helsinki. Most police officers speak English, but some may have a limited capacity to communicate in English. Police assets, although capable, are very limited in rural areas, tending to be more reactive than preventative.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Police harassment is practically unheard of in Finland, as Finnish police are routinely ranked as the least corruptible law enforcement in the world. Anyone attempting to bribe a 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 +358-40-140-5957, 2 pm – 4 pm, Monday-Thursday or outside these hours at +358-9-616-250 or email ACS at HelsinkiACS@state.gov. 

Crime Victim Assistance

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 dispatchers speak English.

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 their own central police station and three national units. The Helsinki precinct is the largest, consisting of about 1,300 officers. 

SUPO is responsible for combating crime and other activity pertaining to 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 nation-wide 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, as a rule, excellent and are widely available for emergency services. English is commonly spoken. Helsinki is a frequent medical evacuation point for emergency cases from the countries of the former Soviet Union. The public hospital system and many private hospitals honor foreign credit cards. 

If you are temporarily visiting Finland and require immediate emergency medical assistance (trauma, life or death cases), you may visit a local medical center or clinic (“ensiapuasema”). Usually, the first-aid station is located at the district hospital, where it is possible to provide a full range of services. Patients should be prepared to present their passports. If your injury or medical need is minor, most private clinics are able to provide assistance. Major cities have 24-hour clinics. In smaller towns, clinics are usually open from 0700 to 2200 hours. 

If you are a resident and require primary health care service, you may contact your local health center, or if your needs are more pressing, you may use private services. 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. Travelers should bring a written prescription in case they are required to justify traveling with a potentially controlled substance. 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 detailed information, please contact the Finnish Embassy in Washington D.C. at 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 because of different medical protocols. 

Prescriptions are dispensed at pharmacies ("apteekki") Most pharmacies are open during normal shopping hours, but major cities have a 24-hour pharmacy.

Contact Information for Recommended Hospitals/Clinics

The Embassy assumes no responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of these facilities:

Mehiläinen Sairaala (hospital)* Lääkärikeskus (clinic)
Pohjoinen Hesperiankatu 17 - Runeberginkatu 47 (corner)
Tel: 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 child care. 

Eira Lääkäriasema 
Laivurinkatu 29
Tel: 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. 

Meilahti Hospital 
Haartmaninkatu 4
Tel: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
Tel: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
Tel: 09-4711
24-hr. emergency services for OBGYN only. Newborn ICU. This is a public facility; you will be charged as a private patient. 

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

Recommended Air Ambulance Services

Jet Flight: Tel: +358-020-510-1911 

Recommended Insurance Posture

Health care services are provided to all residents and visitors by the state. However, the system is over-burdened, and wait times of several months or more are not uncommon for appointments. Many residents purchase additional health insurance, enabling them to utilize private hospitals and clinics. These plans are often offered through companies or can be purchased on the local economy. 

CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance 

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.

For additional information on vaccines and health guidance, please visit the CDC at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/finland. 

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

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Situational Awareness Best Practices 

Visitors should use the same common sense as they would when visiting anywhere else. Visitors should pay attention to their personal safety and protect their valuables (especially passports). As a general rule, people should be alert to their surroundings and keep control of all personal belongings, especially when in crowded public places (airports, public transportation areas, markets). Visitors to Helsinki during the summer months should especially take caution. Professional pickpockets from neighboring countries come to Helsinki to target tourists who may let down their guard. 

The Embassy strongly recommends that U.S. citizens avoid large public gatherings, especially political rallies and demonstrations, due to the potential for violence. 

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information 

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation 

Embassy of the United States of America
Itäinen Puistotie 14 B
00140 Helsinki
Finland

Operating hours: Mon-Fri, 8:30 am to 5 pm. Some sections of 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) Unit: Email: helsinkiACS@state.gov, Tel: +358-40-140-5957, 2 pm - 4 pm, Mon-Thur. Consular does not accept calls for visa inquiries
Website: http://finland.usembassy.gov/

OSAC Country Council Information

Helsinki has an active OSAC Country Council that meets on a regular basis. For more information please contact the U.S. Embassy Regional Security Office at HelsinkiRSO@state.gov; tel: +358-9-616-250. To reach OSAC’s Europe team, please email OSACEUR@state.gov.