An officer examining the scene of Saturday's shooting at the Malminkartano square in Helsinki.Saturday's shooting was an isolated incident, local residents view.

ONE arriving in Malminkartano by train is greeted with new, shiny station signs. Darting through the station's underpass is Sirpa Kaipiainen, on her way to fill her shopping bags. Having lived in Malminkartano for 16 years, Kaipiainen considers the residential area relatively neighbourly and safe.

“I'm not scared to walk around at any time. Some petty quarrels do of course take place from time to time,” she says.

Kaipiainen, who lives in the immediate vicinity of the Malminkartano square, does not believe vandalism or crime has increased in the area.

“The flower boxes of our apartment building were once thrown about, but that's about it.”

At midday Saturday, also Valtteri Seppälä, born and bred in the district, strolls across the Malminkartano square, the scene of Saturday's shooting. Having lived here his entire life, for 25 years, the father of a first-grade girl touts the district as peaceful.

“Last night's events give a false impression of the district. It's really peaceful here, even the children can walk about themselves.”

Seppälä also estimates that there has been no increase in crime against property. “I can only think of one break-in in our apartment building.”

By the square is the Malminkartano Community Centre, the living room of the local residents. The wall by the entrance and the doors are spotted by the bullets that whizzed across the square in the wee hours of Saturday, tearing the wood and metal at impact. At the front, frozen blood marks and a puddle of blood serve as reminders of the incident.

In the Community Centre, Riitta Toivanen is hustling behind the counter. Like many others, she has lived in the district from the beginning, for some 30 years. Her experiences are similar to those of Kaipiainen and Seppälä. Only once was her peace of mind shaken – when someone broke into her home in broad daylight, pilfering valuables.

In contrast to the compliments, two older men sitting at the square in the brisk December air portray an image of what it is like by the square after the sunset. “I don't come here after six o'clock,” one says.

“[Malminkartano] has become slummy,” the men, both residents of the area for roughly 30 years, chant.

The men have their own suspicions as to the shooters and the events at the square but dare not speak out. They both insist on anonymity for their safety.

Returning from the shops, Kaipiainen admits that the district's below-average level of income is palpable on the streets. “There are some shady folk.”

Samuli Laita – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
© Helsingin Sanomat
Photo: Trond H. Trosdahl