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Friday's papers: Police prep for warm-weather trouble, stolen beer kegs, more speeding fine resistance, and a NATO fleet

Newspapers in Finland this Friday look forward to a balmy weekend and report on an empty beer keg circulation scam. They also explain more about heated opposition to new speeding fine proposals and herald a weekend visit from NATO's mine-clearing ships.

Auringonottajat pelaavat lentopalloa hiekkarannalla.
Warm weather this weekend! Enjoy it while you can! Image: Pekka Sipilä / Yle

Today it starts: the first weekend of the season with warm weather. The tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reports on how the police are preparing for restless behaviour. Spring 2017 has been a long time coming, and sun-starved hordes are expected to crowd parks and drinking establishment terraces this weekend, as temperatures climb past 20 degrees Celsius in the southern half of the country.

Helsinki Police Department Chief Jere Roimu predicts that the city centre will be filled with people until dawn, many of whom will be forced to catch the "first morning bus home". He says that where there are crowds of people, there will be trouble. Add some alcohol use and there is bound to be more aggressive behaviour.

"People do stupid things when they are drunk. The most typical are vandalism, assault and fighting. I'm sure we'll have our hands full Friday night," the police chief tells IS.

Despite the expected disturbances, Roimu says the police haven't added any more patrols for the weekend, so less pressing matters will have to wait. 

"We won't be able to respond to every incident quickly. Life-threatening situations come first, disturbances and property damage might have to wait," he says. 

Foreca meteorologist Riikka Lahtinen tells IS that temperatures will be warmest in the south-central regions of Häme and Central Häme, up to 24 degrees. Temperatures along the coast will be limited to about 20 due to the proximity of the sea.

Making money from empty kegs

The leading newspaper out of Helsinki Helsingin Sanomat has an unusual story about a beer keg scam. Beer deliverymen swindled the brewer Sinebrychoff by stealing close to 3,000 empty beer kegs and selling them to restaurant owners that were in on the deal.

Seven drivers and several bar owners involved in the shady business, that took place between 2012 and 2014, faced embezzlement charges in court on Thursday. The most enterprising of the ring stole at least 906 kegs, a number that was determined by comparing his return receipts with video surveillance camera footage.

HS says that stealing empty beer kegs isn't the most common form of thievery, but the explanation can be found in the deposits. After returning the 58-euro deposit fee to the bar owners for the empty kegs, the drivers would sell them for 10 euros each to an intermediate buyer, who would sell them again for 25 or 30 euros to a restaurant, which could return them to the brewer again for 58 euros.

A wholesaler learned of the scam in May 2013, when records showed some drinking establishments were regularly returning more barrels than they had purchased – far more than their customers could have feasibly imbibed.   

The drivers were sentenced to pay 100,000 euros in damages to Sinebrychoff. The intermediaries and restaurant owners who took part in the scam must pay even more to the state, as they were ruled to have used the drivers for considerable financial benefit. The trial originally included 24 defendants, 15 of whom appealed their sentence in the District Court unsuccessfully.

A ticket for going one kilometre over the speed limit?

Next, Friday's paper review turns to the Keskisuomalainen newspaper out of Jyväskylä that has a story on a new road traffic bill that is being prepared by the authorities. Among other things, the bill reportedly has changes that could lower the speeding fine threshold to as little as one (1) kilometre over the speed limit in some areas. The proposal has met stiff resistance.

Ari Jalonen, chair of the committee working on the proposal, admits that it is a complicated idea.

"On the one hand it would make people respect the speed limit, but on the other, regulation that is too strict could tip things in the wrong direction," he tells KSML.

National Coalition Party MP Markku Eestilä says the proposition is a flight of fancy, not legislation: "The public doesn't like nitpicking scrutiny." He says it's not right that the Finnish police are fixated on speeding and automatic camera surveillance.

Traffic safety watchdog Liikenneturva's director Anna-Liisa Tarvainen says she doesn't wants to get caught up in the "speeding hysteria", as she simply wishes that justice would be done with equity.

"We don't support traffic fines for driving 81 kilometres an hour in an 80 limit zone. It doesn't seem right," she says.

Traffic medicine professor Timo Tervo tells KSML that while speed is definitely a factor in traffic safety, so are the road conditions. The driver's health and mental state are also major risk factors in traffic accidents, playing a part in 40 percent of all fatalities. Add fatigue, intoxicants and medications to the mix and this number jumps to 70 percent.

"Driving too fast is a big risk, but it is rarely the reason why a healthy and sober person gets in an accident," Terho says.

NATO ships in Munkkisaari

And finally to the southwest paper Turun Sanomat that says that a NATO mine-clearing fleet will make a call in the port of Helsinki this weekend.

The Standing NATO Mine Countermeasure Group 1 includes the Estonian flagship, the EML Wambola, and three minehunter support ships. They will be moored at the Munkkisaari dock, and open to the public on Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 12 pm. The fleet will be in Helsinki until Monday, when it will leave to take part in joint operations with the Helsinki naval forces.

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