Helsinki residents’ sense of security has not weakened
Helsinki residents’ sense of security in everyday life has not deteriorated. This is a general conclusion of the latest Helsinki Safety Survey, the responses to which were collected at the turn of the year 2015-16. Perceived security in people’s own neighbourhoods and in central Inner Helsinki rose steadily in the years 2003-2012. Since then, the situation has not changed. Yet there are large differences between Helsinki districts in terms of perceived unsafety, particularly during weekend evenings. Nonetheless, there is obvious evidence for continuing to present Helsinki as a very safe tourist and conference city.
Although perceived safety in your own neighbourhood and in central Inner Helsinki has not changed, residents’ idea of the general safety situation in Helsinki has deteriorated. Responses often relate unsafety to metro or train stations or bus stops. Paradoxically, the proportion of respondents feeling safe on public transport was larger now than three years earlier. Residents’ assessment of the security situation is based partly on their own experiences, partly on so-called second-hand information. Crime headlines and other safety-related news may increase people’s anxiety even if their own experiences suggest something else.
Young women more scared of sexual offences now
In 2015, Helsinki residents slightly more often than before fell victim of crimes against property, such as bicycle thefts. More people than earlier had also had other personal belongings than bicycles and vehicles stolen. Domestic burglaries, on the other hand, are rare, and otherwise too, Helsinki resident worry less than earlier about becoming victims of theft or damage.
Violence and threats of violence have, on the whole, not become more common in Helsinki. Yet, systematic growth has occurred in violence and threats against women at work. The proportion of respondents fearing they might fall victim of violence or threats of violence was as large as in 2012. It should be noted, though, that young women’s fear of falling victim to sexual offences had increased clearly over those three years.
Fewer witness violence in their own neighbourhood
At the same time it has become less common for residents to see violence such as fights or beatings-up in their own neighbourhood. Witnessed violence is in a way a more objective measure of unsafety than is people’s sense of security. On the other hand – and although the trend has been favourable – differences in witnessed violence are still large between districts in Helsinki.
Worries about tensions between language and population groups
In their own neighbourhoods, Helsinki residents worried most about rising unemployment and social marginalisation, although indeed worries about issues mentioned had decreased on the whole. The worry that had increased the most between 2012 and 2015 concerned relationships between language and ethnic groups in the neighbourhood. Most also felt that people with a confused behaviour in the streetscape were disturbing and caused unsafety. At the same time, people believed upgraded services for drug abuse problems and mental problems would favourably influence safety and serenity in Helsinki.
Those with a foreign mother tongue now included in the survey
The 2015 survey was the first one to be answered by residents with a foreign mother tongue too, i.e. other than Finnish or Swedish. Those with a foreign mother tongue experienced slightly more unsafety in their neighbourhoods than did the indigenous population. Again, those with a foreign mother tongue felt just as safe as the indigenous to move about in central Helsinki and on public transport. Those with a foreign mother tongue are almost as satisfied with their neighbourhood as are the indigenous population.
Nonetheless, it was more common among people with a foreign mother tongue to worry about safety. They worried clearly more than the indigenous about the future of children and young people, about terrorism and climate change. The situation in their own neighbourhood was more often a worry for those with a foreign mother tongue than for others. More often than the indigenous, those with a foreign mother tongue reported a family member had been exposed to violence or threats of violence in a public place. Similarly, they were also more worried about falling victim of crime or accidents.
At three-year intervals since 2003, the City of Helsinki has conducted a resident survey on safety. The responses to the 2015 Safety Survey were given at an exceptional time, when the Paris bombings shook and worried people here, too. In addition, in a short time a large number of asylum seekers arrived in Finland, and the reactions of locals toward mushrooming reception centres were strong in places. There was much debate about street patrols and hate rhetoric on the web.
The Safety Survey 2015 was answered by over 4,000 Helsinki residents aged 15-74 years. Many of the articles in the fresh report have been previously published as articles in the web version of the Kvartti magazine.
Vesa Keskinen & Eija Laihinen: Kaikesta huolimatta turvallista – Helsingin turvallisuustutkimus 2015, Helsinki City Urban Facts Office’s Study 2017:2, pdf-publication. (in Finnish)