Police: hate crimes on the rise but ‘stabilising’ after peak

Assault is the most common hate crime in Finland - with crimes against Muslim and Roma people featuring high on the statistics.

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File picture of Finnish police officers in Helsinki / Credit: iStock

The number of hate crimes reported to the police during 2017 was 8% higher than the previous year. According to a new study by the Police University College there were 1165 reports classified as hate crime last year.

But researchers are quick to point out that although that number is on the rise year-on-year, it’s still lower than a peak in 2016 during a wave of migration. However figures are still above the long-term average since police started monitoring this type of crime 20 years ago.

What types of crimes are considered?

The most common type of crime is assault, but hate speech and discrimination are also included in the statistics.

“Almost any type of crime can be a hate crime if there is a crime plus a bias motive” explains researcher Jenita Rauta from the Police University College.

“We are taking into account crimes based on ethnic and national origin, religion or beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity or appearance or disability” when compiling the reports, she says.

The number of suspected hate crimes based on religion or religious conviction showed the most dramatic increase, up 58% over the previous year. The police recorded a total of 235 such hate crimes, and Muslims were the target in 63% of those offenses.

Monitoring anti-Roma crime

This year for the first time special attention was paid to hate crimes involving Finland’s Roma community.

The figures show that 10% of all crime reports based on ethnic or national background targeted a person with Roma heritage, and discrimination was the most common incident.

“This was the first time we tried to get number for anti-Roma crimes, because it’s a big problem in Europe, and the Roma people themselves asked that that they wanted to know how many of the hate crimes was based on Roma heritage” Jenita Rauta tells News Now Finland.

In recent years the National Police Board has been working with Roma community groups around the issue of hate crimes. It’s just one of the steps the police have been trying to take to tackle the problems.

In 2017 a national hate speech investigation team was established at the Helsinki Police Department, tasked to intervene in punishable hate speech on the internet.

One of the reasons the number of hate crime reports is rising is, according to police, as a direct result of more crimes being recorded by this specialist team.