Minister of the Interior Krista Mikkonen and civil society organisations discussed youth crime and gang activity
On 30 November 2022, Minister of the Interior Krista Mikkonen and experts in several fields discussed youth crime and the emergence of gangs and gang crime. The round table meeting included experts by experience, parties engaged with young people through preventive work and authorities.
The police have identified around ten street gangs that in total have more than one hundred members in Finland. Because drawing a line between groups of young people and organised street gangs is not always clear, crime prevention and intervention needs coordinated, intersectoral and sustained work among young people and young adults.
“The coping and wellbeing of young people is an important issue, both for society as a whole and for individuals. At present too many children and young people are struggling, as evidenced by increased youth crime and street gang behaviour,” says Minister Mikkonen.
“Parliament and the Government are both debating this issue. Throughout this government term, we have invested in preventive measures and effective intervention in crimes. Now we are looking into taking further action,” she continues.
The Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health are considering what additional measures could be launched this winter and next spring.
“Investing in the wellbeing of young people requires cooperation not only between the authorities, but also between other parties in society. Our civil society organisations carry out invaluable work with young people,” Minister Mikkonen says.
Much feedback on the importance of early intervention
The roundtable event was attended by representatives of HelsinkiMissio's Aggredi programme, the Children of the Station association, the Osallisuuden aika association, the Central Union for Child Welfare, and various experts by experience. Experts from the City of Helsinki's outreach youth work, Helsinki Police Department, the National Bureau of Investigation's Exit activity, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, the National Police Board, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Ministry of Justice also participated in the discussions.
“It is good that we talk about this, but I hope that the media would shift to a less negative tone in their news about young people. More news stories could focus on the positive aspects of young people. And when young people have problems and need help, they should be able to access it early. At the moment, many are really struggling and cannot get help in time,” says Maya Waitara, experience expert at Osallisuuden aika, an organisation engaging with former service users of child protection services and with professionals in social services.
Helsinki Police Department carries out measures related to street gangs. Together with other authorities and operators, the preventive action team works with young people who resort to criminal behaviour or who are simply interested in getting involved in the activities.
“The preventive action team aims to put a stop to situations where young people could get caught in a vicious circle of crime. The police also seek to prevent spirals of violent revenge and to effectively investigate serious offences committed by street gangs,” says Sergeant Jon Fuhrmann.
Ex-gang member Miika Mehmet works in Aggredi, a programme helping others break away from criminal activity.
“My work is challenging. When a young person has got trapped in a circle of crime, we have far fewer opportunities to intervene. That’s why intervention should take place much earlier, and we need more tools to make it happen,” he says.
“Sometimes it may be possible to detect the first alarming signals at the maternity and child health clinic, and we should have better methods to intervene at such early stages. Research findings show that when parents receive early support and guidance at the maternity and child health clinics, the efforts will pay for themselves,” says Anneli Portman, Senior Specialist at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.
Aggredi is a form of working with offenders of street violence. Developed by HelsinkiMissio, the programme has operated in the Greater Helsinki area since 2006. Aggredi aims to reduce or end violent behaviour, providing an opportunity to deal with violence-induced problems in an impartial setting, on a one-to-one basis.
Children of the Station focuses on supporting the safe growth of children and youth, enabling their and their families’ wellbeing and combatting social exclusion. The organisation's guiding forces are openness, humanity and presence, and one of its objectives is to increase the presence of adults in young people’s daily lives. The Ripa project seeks to prevent the spiralling of criminal activity and substance abuse among young people by combining professional action with the knowledge of trained experts by experience. Children of the Station currently participates in a pilot with passenger train operator VR where train conductors team up with youth workers during some of their work shifts on local trains and stations in the Greater Helsinki area.
Osallisuuden aika develops child protection services with a focus on the clients. It surveys young child protection clients on the services that concern them and disseminates the data it has produced or collected to decision-makers. The young people engaged in Osallisuuden aika are former child protection service users who have experience of encounters with a range of authorities.
Mikko Jalo, Special Adviser to Minister Mikkonen, tel. +358 50 304 8522, [email protected] (requests for interviews with the Minister)
Heidi Kankainen, Chief Specialist, tel. +358 295 488 335, [email protected] (information on street gangs)