In a revealing study, Stockholm has emerged with a notably higher rate of youth gang involvement compared to its Nordic counterparts, including Helsinki and Turku. Approximately one in six young individuals in Stockholm is associated with a gang, a proportion that significantly exceeds the less than ten percent observed in Helsinki and Turku. This distinction places Stockholm in a unique position among other Nordic cities surveyed, including Næstved, Randers, Gävle, Oslo, Reykjavik, and areas outside Reykjavik in Iceland.
The study, which spanned over 9,000 youths aged 13 to 17 from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, found that gang-affiliated youths are more likely to engage in property crimes, violent offenses, and drug trafficking. Stockholm also had a higher percentage of youths with close friends in gangs (16%) compared to Helsinki (9%) and Turku (8%). Gävle was the only other city that closely followed Stockholm's figures, with 12% of youths having gang affiliations through close friendships.
Markus Kaakinen, a university researcher at the Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy at the University of Helsinki, highlights that while gang presence is a common issue across all studied Nordic cities, Stockholm's situation is particularly acute. The research also pointed out that gang involvement is more likely among youths with lower self-control, higher criminal activity, criminal-friendly attitudes, and similar peer groups. However, socioeconomic disadvantage was only weakly linked to gang membership, suggesting a complex relationship between poverty and gang formation, particularly in areas where street gangs typically emerge.
The findings underscore the importance of targeted prevention efforts, especially among the most crime-active youths. Cities with higher rates of family-related issues, discrimination, and crime-prone peer influences showed a greater prevalence of youth gang involvement. Effective juvenile crime prevention, therefore, appears to be key in curbing street gang criminality, focusing on the most at-risk youths and groups.
Kaakinen's study, conducted under the Eurogang definition, explored relatively stable, crime-committing, street-oriented youth groups. These groups, primarily engaged in minor offenses, differ from the more notorious criminal gangs recognized by police in Finland and Sweden, known for more serious criminal activities. The research highlights the need for nuanced understanding and intervention strategies to address the phenomenon of youth gangs across the Nordic region.