Vantaa to prevent youth violence by early intervention — added pairs of hands and services next year


According to Eastern Uusimaa Police Department, violence and assault in schools have become a serious problem in Eastern Uusimaa. Vantaa has systematically invested in youth work as well as in preventive work conducted in schools and educational institutions. Next year’s appropriations make is possible for the city to acquire new youth workers and to offer more hobbies

Iltakuva kaupunkiympäristöstä

Kuvaaja: Pekka Turtiainen

“We are shocked at the recent violence conducted by Vantaa youth, but, unfortunately, it does not come as a great surprise to us either,” says Mayor Ritva Viljanen“The coronavirus pandemic clearly increased young people’s malaise, which has also been recognized in the City's coronavirus recovery plan whose theme is wellbeing of children and the young. Nevertheless, we cannot put all the blame for this phenomenon on the coronavirus pandemic. “We have already for a long time been developing more far-reaching solutions to prevent young people’s increasing malaise,” Viljanen continues.

One key focus of Vantaa's security plan is prevention of young people’s marginalization, grouping them, and boosting their social inclusion. After the coronavirus pandemic, the security plan, too, puts special focus on the young.

“Young people's wellbeing and the feeling of safety they experience is a number-one issue for Vantaa,” Viljanen adds. “That’s why our next year’s budget will allocate an exceptional amount of money for, among other things, hiring of youth workers and increasing hobbies for the young. In the next three years, we will be spending a sum total of €18 million on recovering from the coronavirus pandemic,” Viljanen states.

Vantaa has trained its employees and partners in work combating radicalization and extremism, as well as in increased awareness of polarization. “This training aims to prepare the city employees to better and more frequently address even difficult issues with the young,” Viljanen explains.

Safety and prevention of crime constitute key points in many of the city's networks and various operating models such as the Ankkuri and RIO (Operating model for young people acting out by means of criminal activities) projects.  “Vantaa also participates in the Nordic Countries’ Nordic Safe Cities network where our neighbors have given us tips and experiences that we can also utilize here in Finland,” Viljanen adds.

Youth work knows the local young people — has managed to prevent conflicts

Key to Vantaa’s youth work is a preventive approach. We try to offer the young such activities that help them avoid negative life paths, for example, violence, substance abuse, or marginalization. Youth work professionals continuously conduct educational discussions with the young, whose general aim is to improve young people’s behavior.

Youth workers are familiar with the young in their own areas. They also have good channels of communication with the young. Therefore, they are well prepared to preventively intervene in violent phenomena, which helps to prevent the worst consequences from happening.

Outreach youth work in stations and city centers aims to keep up nonstop contact with the young and to get up-to-date information on their movements. Outreach youth work has managed to prevent undesirable mass gatherings of the young that have presented a high risk of conflict. In addition, youth work cooperates with Eastern Uusimaa Police Department.

“Our good cooperation with Eastern Uusimaa Police Department and schools has enabled us to investigate young people’s cases of violence and, thus, prevent reprisals,” tells regional youth work manager Pekka Mäkelä.

New approaches are being developed for youth work. As part of the 2023 budget, the city council regularized the Youth Work on the Train Tracks activities that are financed from the Regional Program of Positive Action. In addition, Vantaa participates in the metropolitan area's joint project—financed by the Ministry of Education and Culture—aiming to prevent youth violence. An additional appropriation of €100,000 was designated to outreach youth work in next year’s budget.

Investing in cooperation between guardians and educational staff, as well as in teaching emotional skills

The Kodin ja oppimisen yhteistyömalli (Model for cooperation between home and learning, in Finnish) highlights the importance of cooperation between guardians and educational staff. “The aim of the model is to promote children and young people's growth, wellbeing, and learning, to support their sense of community, as well as to prevent bullying,” tells Deputy Mayor Katri Kalske of the Education and Learning department. The entire city's PTA meeting on supporting the wellbeing of children and the young will take place in January.

All Vantaa's major regions have regional networks with safety as one of their essential themes. The networks consist of representatives of Early Childhood Education, Basic Education, Youth Services, and the Health and Social Welfare department (in the future, the latter will be replaced with representatives of the wellbeing services county). When required, representatives of the police and the city's own security professionals will be invited to participate. The networks cooperate on seeking regional solutions for violent behavior.

Teaching emotional and interaction skills is a good example of the preventive work conducted in schools and educational institutions. Each Vantaa student has at least monthly lessons in emotional and interaction skills; in some schools, these lessons are given on a weekly basis.  “During the lessons, the students learn, among other things, self-control and empathy skills; to encounter and process their own emotions; to commit to joint rules; to respect difference and classroom discipline; to make friends; and to act responsibly on social media,” Kalske says when summing up instruction of emotional and interaction skills.

In 2021-2022, Vantaa Vocational College Varia piloted the low-threshold support-bot solution—winner of The Association of Finnish Local and Regional  Authorities’ innovation competition—that aims to reduce the number of dropouts. The support bot approaches students by text message with proactive support offers at the critical points on their path or at regular intervals to ask the students whether they need help. If a student needs help, the support bot refers the student to the correct faculty member based on the need for support. The number of vocational-studies dropouts fell to a significant extent in Vantaa in 2021, whereas it increased elsewhere in Finland at the same time.

Regional Program of Positive Action addresses regional inequality

The Regional Program of Positive Action (MEK) is targeted at four districts in Vantaa, chosen on the basis of four criteria. East Vantaa MEK areas consist of Havukoski, Länsimäki, Hakunila, and Mikkola, and West Vantaa’s area is Myyrmäki. The criteria used for choosing the MEK areas into the 2023-2025 program period are the income level, educational level and unemployment rate of the residents, as well as percentage of foreign-language speakers in the areas. The MEK measures are not, however, limited to only these districts; measures can be targeted at areas identified as undergoing regional differentiation.

In 2023-2025, the MEK program will finance additional youth-work resources for elementary and junior high schools, as well as for outreach youth work in station areas, that is, the Youth Work on the Train Tracks activities. Regional sense of community is increased with the help of peer-guided neighborhood sports and schools’ sports team activities. Community developers will enter the areas and work to bring people together. By bolstering positive phenomena, we are impacting the general feeling of safety and atmosphere in different areas.

Vantaa annually invests €2 million into preventing regional differentiation through the MEK program. The program is based on scrupulously researched data, and it aims at effective measures.


AdministrationYouth 13-20 yr.