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Trends in Assault: On the Relationship Between the Assault Rate and Selected Social Indicators in Post-War Finland

NCJ Number
Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology and Crime Prevention Volume: 3 Issue: 1 Dated: 2002 Pages: 22-49
Reino Siren
Date Published
This study examined the extent to which various social indicators can statistically explain changes in the number of assaults recorded in Finland over the period 1950-2000.
From 1950 to about the mid-1960's, the annual volume of assaults in Finland fluctuated very little. The crime rate was surprisingly stable for approximately 15 years; however, toward the end of the 1960's, the number of assaults began to increase. In 1969, the year of alcohol reform in Finland, the increase was exceptionally sharp. This upward trend has continued, albeit with some fluctuations. The most notable departures from the increase in assaults occurred during the late 1970's and the years 1991-93, when the number of assaults decreased. In the mid-1990's there was another surge, with more than a 10-percent annual increase in assaults recorded by the police. The latest crime data indicate the assault rate has continued on a path of moderate growth. In comparing police assault statistics with those of victim surveys, it is apparent that the increase in assaults indicated in police statistics is due in part to the increased rate of police detection of violence; however, the urbanization of Finnish society is perhaps the key factor in assault increases. Urbanization has increased the opportunities for various kinds of violent encounters. Of the factors examined through the least-median-of-squares regression model, alcohol consumption, private consumers' expenditure, and the clearance rate of assault had the best explanatory power. The author advises, however, that although the relationship of these indicators to annual changes in the assault rate is statistically significant, they should not be assumed to be reliable predictors of future developments in the assault rate. 10 figures, 3 tables, and 46 references