The number of suspected hate crimes continued to decline last year

Publication date 11.11.2021 9.03
News item

The annual report on hate crime by the Police University College indicates that the number of suspected hate crimes reported to the police was slightly lower in 2020 than in the previous year.

According to the report, a total of 852 reports of offences classified as suspected hate crimes were filed. In recent years, the number has declined to the long-term level that preceded the peak experienced in 2015.

The study by the Police University College classified suspected hate crimes on the basis of the various motives for the act. As in previous years, most of the reports of hate crime in 2020 involved elements targeted at the victim’s ethnic or national origin. The total number of these reports of an offence recorded by the police was 646, slightly fewer than a year before. In these cases, the most common offence was assault, as before. 

In 12 per cent of the crime reports relating to ethnic or national origin, the injured party was a person of Roma origin. This was one third more than in 2019. In these reports, the most common offence was defamation.

Of the motives of suspected hate crime, the number of reports relating to the victim’s disability decreased most, by about one third from 2019. More than half of these suspected offences involved defamation.

Fewer reports of hate crime from bars and restaurants 

In 2020, assault was still the most common offence in reports of hate crime submitted to the police. The numbers of verbal insults, threats and cases of harassment were still high, as they totalled more than half of all reported cases. Defamation and illegal threats were the most common offences in these reports. 

The number of suspected offences of ethnic agitation, however, declined by one third from 2019: the total number of reports filed with the police was 71, whereas in the previous year, this figure was 105. 

As in previous years, the most common places of offence for suspected cases of hate crimes included a road, street, marketplace or other outdoor location. It is noteworthy, however, that the number of suspected cases of hate crimes committed in bars, restaurants and dance venues declined by up to 50 per cent from the previous year. This may be at least partly due to the restrictions imposed on bars and restaurants in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, people spent much more time at home, which may partially contribute to the clear increase in the number of neighbours as suspects.  

New guidelines on hate crime to be introduced to the police

According to police guidelines, it should be compulsory to use a specific code for all suspected cases of hate crimes, if the injured party or the police consider the offence to even partially involve the elements of a hate crime. Such codes are not, however, compulsory at present. 

In the annual report, of the cases defined as hate crimes, only about one fifth had been classified as hate crimes by the police. Even though the degree of utilisation of the hate crime classification by the police cannot be directly used as basis for estimating how well the police can recognise hate crimes, further training is still required. 

“The new guidelines on hate crimes, prepared by the National Police Board, will be more extensive than the previous instructions. The Ministry of the Interior will also arrange training on hate crimes for the police within the framework of the Osaavat (Capable) project, for example today, on 11 November, at the Police University College,” says researcher Jenita Rauta. 

The number of suspected hate crimes has been monitored to its current extent by the Police University College since 2008. The statistics on hate crimes are based on crime reports retrieved from the National Police Information System.

The numbers of suspected hate crimes in 2011–2020:

Motive 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Ethnic or national background 678 991 831 813 634 650 646
Religion or belief 68 133 149 235 155 133 108
Sexual orientation, gender identity
or expression of gender
47 61 57 60 73 72 68
Disability 29 65 42 57 48 44 30
Total 822 1,250 1,079 1,165 910 899 852