Finnish Policy on Public perception of safety

“… fear of crime can be regarded as a social problem comparable to crime itself” (National Crime Prevention Program 1999). The Finnish definition of crime prevention focuses on reducing harm caused by crime. Fear of crime is considered to be one of such harms and thus reducing fear is a normal element in crime prevention projects.

Fear of or concern about crime has been measured since the 1980s by series of various population surveys using questions about people’s concerns to be victimised, precautions taken, and feelings of safety. Also local surveys and surveys on special concerns of victimisation or safety in special environments have been conducted.

The latest surveys indicate that concern/fear of crime has decreased compared with earlier surveys. However, the percentage of people who have taken precautions because of violence has increased consistently from the 1980s. Feeling of vulnerability on the streets at night and perceived risk of home burglary are in Finland among the lowest in the countries that have participated in the international surveys.

People’s perceptions of public safety are based mainly on media and their often exaggerated and dramatized depictions or crime. Already in the 1970s a governmental work group proposed production of objective and reliable information on crime trends and risks. Since 1974 the National Research Institute of Legal Policy has published annual reports on crime trends. This gives a chance to the public and the politicians to form a more accurate (and usually a less dramatic) view on crime trends than one would do based only on following popular media. 

See ICVS findings.