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Monday's papers: Fewer crimes solved, pharmacy nurses, bike helmets and a smoking ban

The print press in Finland starts off the week with stories on a ten percent drop in criminal case-solving by the police, pharmacies branching out into nursing services, a draft road traffic legal reform that drops mention of bicycle helmets, and one apartment building's struggle to ban smoking.

Kuvassa neljä lasta ja pyörä, jossa on neljä paikkaa.
To wear a helmet or not wear a helmet? Image: Raila Paavola / Yle

The Keskisuomalainen newspaper out of Central Finland starts the week with a story on less effective crime-solving in Finland. Last year only 67 percent of bodily injury offenses were resolved by Finland's authorities, down from 78 percent in 2010. For sex crimes, the number of cases solved fell to 62 percent. Both are down by 10 percent. Crimes in the bodily injury category include murder, manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter and assault, while sex crimes include rape, sexual abuse of a child and sexual harassment.

The police consider a case to be cleared when the pre-trial investigation is completed and the case moves to the prosecutor for prosecution. It can later be dismissed after consideration of the charges or in court, of course, but in terms of police figures, the case is considered closed after it is handed over to the courts. Police mark cases unresolved if they never proceed to prosecution, for instance, if the perpetrator or the circumstances of the crime are never clearly ascertained.

Helsinki University criminology researcher Martti Lehti says police competence is not to blame, as he believes their skills have improved. More security cameras and associated technology are also a big help these days. He blames dwindling resources.

"Cuts have been made to police fieldwork and administration, so they can't devote as much attention to every crime," he says.

Finland's government has earmarked money in recent years to combat economic crime and the grey economy. Financial crimes are on the rise and the rate of successfully prosecuted cases in this area has stayed stable since 2015, KSML reports.

Nurses and meds in one place

The Oulu-based paper Kaleva talks about pharmacies that are branching out into the health centre business in anticipation of the massive health and social care shakeup the government hopes to have up and running by 2019.

Twelve pharmacies in Finland now offer a Terveyspiste, which allows customers to visit a nurse without an appointment. More are being planned.  Others have expanded their services to include remote medical services. For example, there are a few remote locations where customers can sit for an online consultation with a doctor.

"We estimate that the network of health care clinics will be cut back after the health care reform. Terveyspistes offer health care services with a low threshold," Merja Hirvonen, director of Finland's pharmacist association, told the news agency Lännen Media.   

Bureaucracy has slowed down the pharmacy's new idea, as cooperation with public health care has been problematic. Not every municipality has found a public partner to make the Terveyspiste concept work. The city must first approve of the facility and the head doctor has to make an inspection.

"The public sector has a hard time trying new things, everything is so slow. They might be worried about us stealing public jobs, but there's no way one nurse can replace an entire health care centre," one pharmacist tells the paper. 

Dropping the helmet recommendation?

And then to the country's largest circulation daily, Helsingin Sanomat, which features a report this Monday on the impending revamp of Finland's road traffic laws, which might drop the official recommendation that bicyclists use helmets. The paper puts visiting British surgeon Henry Marsh on a city bike and asks him what he thinks of the danger of cycling in the city without head protection.

Marsh's logic goes that cycling laws affect national health and individual freedoms. He says there is not enough evidence to prove that helmets bring health benefits to impose upon the latter. He believes that the benefits to health to be gained by promoting cycling on a larger scale outweigh the potential benefit of a helmet in the case of a fall.

He says "urban warriors" that zoom through the streets of the city in their spandex should wear a helmet, but for observant cyclists that take their time, they shouldn't be necessary. 

"I've been riding my bike in London for 45 years, and I've never been hurt. Of course, I could be killed in traffic tomorrow, but it is likely that my wearing a helmet wouldn't make a difference," he says.

Finland's traffic safety watchdog Liikenneturva says Finland shouldn't drop its helmet promotion, citing statistics that close to half of cyclists that died in traffic could have possibly been saved had they been wearing a helmet. The National Institute for Health and Welfare agrees, but says an exception could be made for city bike users.

Finland is renewing its Road Traffic Act, which dates back to 1981. The bike helmet recommendation is just one of the many statutes and guidelines that are under consideration. A draft of the new law, which removes any reference to cycling helmets, is being circulated for comment this spring and will be considered next autumn by the government.

Tough time clearing the air

And finally, the tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reports on an Espoo housing company that banned smoking in its balconies, a process the occupants described as "a lot of work and expensive".

In Finland, the residents of apartment buildings whose flats are privately owned often join together to create a private company for maintaining their building and grounds. Espoo's Kilorinne Ltd decided this summer to ban smoking on the building's balconies, after talking about it for years. In order to do so, the board had to interview each of the occupants in a certain order, who had to submit a decision they could prove was legally binding.

Ari Aaltonen, the head of the housing companies' board told IS that the process wasn't just difficult; it was "extremely difficult." He said that while smoking is easy to ban in work facilities, housing companies have to jump through too many hoops just to ensure that babies can sleep on the balconies in peace. "Almost as if I would have had to submit my entire family history," he says.

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