Youth in downtown Helsinki on 31 December 2022. In Espoo, police conducted a rare raid at a school on Tuesday, discovering a small amount of cannabis. (Jussi Nukari – Lehtikuva)

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A GROUP OF PUPILS at an Espoo school are suspected of selling narcotics during the schoolday after police officers discovered a small amount of cannabis during a rare raid at the school on Tuesday.

“We’re not talking about kilos,” Hannu Väänänen, a chief inspector at the crime prevention unit of Western Uusimaa Police Department, clarified to Helsingin Sanomat on Wednesday.

While police receive tip-offs about possible drug trafficking at schools fairly frequently, the raid was carried out based on unusually solid information, he indicated to the newspaper. Police, he highlighted, rarely decide to carry out a raid at a school with sniffer dogs and do so only based on careful consideration.

“If we suspect that there are drugs at a school, we do have to get them out of there. In this case, police visited the site and really searched for drugs,” he said.

Raids at schools may be unusual, but police across the capital region regularly receive tip-offs and requests for assistance regarding the use and trafficking of drugs at schools, according to a follow-up report by Helsingin Sanomat.

It is rare, though, that such suspicions lead to a pre-trial investigation. Väänänen told that typically the cases involve a pupil who has bought cannabis and shares it with their friends at school, which are logical environments for such activity because they are safe and secluded places where groups of friends get together on a daily basis.

Police have also detected signs of pupils seeking to create sales organisations at schools, according to him. Officers at Western Uusimaa Police Department have thus far looked only into drug trafficking rings made up of minors that operate outside schools.

Asko Sartanen, a detective chief inspector at the crime prevention unit of Eastern Uusimaa Police Department, similarly told that schools have partly become places for illicit trade and emphasised the importance of preventive work at schools, saying one can no longer “turn a blind eye” to the phenomenon.

“There are rings specifically for e-cigarettes and snus that undeniably operate at schools. You can no longer deny that there are drugs, too. There are drugs at schools,” he said to Helsingin Sanomat.

Although Eastern Uusimaa Police Department is not presently investigating any school-based drug sales and has not carried out raids at schools, the situation is worrying from a police perspective, said Sartanen.

“Malaise among some kids and young people is very widespread. They’re involved in all bad things: drug problems, violence, property crime. This is all visible in day-to-day school life.”

Schools, he added, contact the police so frequently every day that some of the calls go unanswered, particularly in larger cities such as Vantaa. There are also schools where police have had to visit repeatedly.

“We can’t always respond to the calls we get, and headmasters and school counsellors have to take care of things themselves,” he said.

Katja Nissinen, a chief inspector responsible for crime prevention at Helsinki Police Department, told Helsingin Sanomat that schools tend to contact the police when they become concerned about a particular young person based on, for example, sightings or chatter among their peers.

Schools, though, are not reflected prominently in drug crime statistics in Helsinki. Police receive more tip-offs about young people possibly peddling drugs in parking halls and other secluded places.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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