Homicide

Updated: 11 Jan 2021
Next update: 10 Jan 2022

The indicator describes the trend in mortality due to homicide for women, men and the whole population in ten-year periods from 1760 to the present day. The number of victims is proportioned to the population: mortality is expressed as the annual number of victims per 100,000 people. Indicator data have been gathered by the National Research Institute of Legal Policy from the information published by the Finnish criminologist Veli Verkko and Statistics Finland. Until 1936, the number for men and women do not include infanticide, infanticides are included in the total number of homicides in the period prior to 1936.

In addition to Sweden, Finland is the only country in the world where comparable data are available on homicide trends for such a long period. For this, thanks are due to the Kingdom of Sweden’s population statistics system, in which information on mortalities due to intentional violence has been recorded since the mid-1700s. However, the data on the 1700s and early 1800s are fairly incomplete. According to studies by Heikki Ylikangas and Kirsi Sirén, the number of victims given is around 30 to 50 per cent lower than the actual numbers. At present, the number of homicides registered in the statistics on causes of death is around 10 per cent lower than the actual figure.

   

Drop in homicides came to a halt

According to cause of death data, 68 persons, of which 51 were men, were killed in homicides in Finland in 2018. The number of homicides was higher than in the two previous years, but still clearly below the average of the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s. The mortality rate relative to the population was 1.23 victims per 100,000 population.

Historically examined, the level of homicide has been low in recent years. With the declining homicide trend that started in the 1990s, particularly homicides committed by men have decreased, against both men and women. Changes in homicides committed by women have been small in recent decades.

The most violent period in Finland’s recent history measured by homicides was the period from 1905, when there was a Mass Strike, to 1932, when the Prohibition Act was repealed. At the time, the number of people killed annually in Finland per capita was triple the numbers today. (The single most violent year during the compilation of statistics on causes of death is 1918 during and after the Finnish Civil War, when the level of homicides was more than 60 victims per 100,000 population). Another shorter peak in violence occurred just after World War II, from 1945 to 1947. Correspondingly, the least violent period throughout our known history was also in the last century, from the end of the 1950s to the end of the 1960s. At that time, the level of homicides was one-third lower than average in the past decades. A new period of relatively high levels of homicides started in 1969, when the great alcohol reform was introduced. Since the late 1990s, the number of homicides in Finland has decreased again. The trend has also been similar elsewhere in Europe. The drop in the level of homicides has, on average, been slightly faster in Finland than in the rest of the European Economic Area. One of the reasons for the fall in the level of crimes has been the ageing of the population, which has accounted for 10 to 25 per cent of the overall change in the level of homicides.

Despite the decline in crime, the general profile of homicides has remained unchanged. A typical Finnish offence against life is a homicide in a private home during a drinking brawl. The weapon is a kitchen knife and the crime is committed during the weekend. The perpetrator and the victim are old friends, middle-aged, living alone, and socially excluded alcoholic men, who have several prior sentences for acts of violence. At the time of the crime, the parties involved typically have a blood alcohol level between one and three per mille.