COVID and Crime Trends in Finland

By Matti Näsi

Matti Näsi. Photo: Laura Sarasoja

It has been little over two years since the beginning of global Covid-19 pandemic. Although it does appear that we may be on the winning side of things, the consequences and disruptions caused by the pandemic were massive. In Finland, lockdown in the spring of 2020 meant significant restrictions on restaurants, social gatherings, workplaces, and schools. This was followed with number of milder periodical restrictions both in late 2020 and throughout 2021. Our daily routine activities were thus heavily impacted. From the perspective of crime these past two years have thus provided an interesting natural experiment. Early in the pandemic many of the crime related concerns focused on domestic violence, as did much of the early research, but gradually research has begun to wider its scope. No doubt future research on the implications from the pandemic will be plentiful, but in the meantime, I’ll try and take at least some stock on what happened with crime in Finland over the past two years. Although I do realize that trying to do this in single blog post requires a very general overview.

This in mind, one could sum up the past two years in somewhat Dickensian style as the tale of two years. What this refers to is that the general overview of crime in Finland in 2020 was quite different to that in 2021. This is evident both in trends on police recorded crime, as well as findings from the national crime victim survey. In 2020 we witness a clear spike in police recorded crime, this was particularly notable during the summer 2020, right after the spring 2020 lockdown ended. This spike is evident in both violence and property crime. At the same time findings from the Finnish National Crime Survey were quite the opposite, as there was sharp decline in the percentage of population that had been victims of violence in 2020 compared to year before. For men, the prevalence rate of violence victimization was almost halved compared to 2019. Violence in Finland has always been very alcohol driven, thus restrictions on social gatherings seemed to mirror this.

However, any of the changes appear to have been short lived, as the impact from Covid on crime appeared to have “normalized”, and in 2021 crime rates were almost back to those pre-pandemic levels. This goes to both police recorded crime trends and victimization survey findings, which both show notaly similar prevalence rates as in 2019. Now one could argue that this was not particularly surprising, but it does further highlight the role nightlife and alcohol related social activity has on crime on a wider societal level. Rarely has there been more effective way to reduce violence victimization in such short period of time. At the same time early concerns regarding domestic violence appear not have realized. However, long term implications, particularly among youth is something to keep an eye on.

Matti Näsi is currently working as University Lecturer at the Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy at University of Helsinki. He is also co-coordinator (together with Ilari Kolttola) of the National Crime Victim Survey. His main research interests lie within the online context, largely in relation to youth delinquency, media criminology, and cybercrime. Email: