Subutex and Violent Gangs Behind a Spate of Robberies in Oulu
A recent rise in robberies in Oulu has been blamed on the use of Subutex, a drug substitute used by people trying to get off heroine, and drug-gang violence.
The number of robberies has more than doubled in Oulu when comparing January to April 2011 and the same period this year. In the first quarter of 2011 there were 24 reported robberies. During the same period in 2012 there have been 52.
Despite only being the country’s fifth largest city, Oulu now accounts for ten percent of all robberies in Finland. About half of these are described by the police as ‘street muggings’ while the other half involve robbing shops, usually at gun or knife point.
According to the police, most of these robbers are males who are under the age of 30. They are often first-time offenders, desperate for money to pay for the next Subutex pill. These pills cost about 120 euros on the street and addicts will often require one a day to feed their habit.
The police claim that these robbers are motivated by drug gangs’ use of severe violence to collect their debts. While cases of aggravated assault have fallen nationwide in the last year, they have actually risen in Oulu and the police see this as connected to the drug trade. A number of gangs run this trade in Oulu, according to the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation. These include United Brotherhood.
Groups such as United Brotherhood employ ‘hitmen’ who are prepared to commit gruesome violence on debt defaulters in return for money. Janne Vähäsarja, the man who murdered a Pizzeria worker in Kaukovainio in February before shooting himself, was one such hitman.
Such violent methods are also portrayed in the Rovaniemi-set documentary Reindeer Spotting in which the central character has fingers cut off due to his failure to pay a drug-debt to a gang.