Here is one story: I am driving calmly in Helsinki city centre when I notice a flashing blue light in my rear vision mirror. “They can’t possibly be after me,” I think to myself. I stop, and the police car parks behind me. A young policeman walks to my window and asks for driving license and registration. No greeting and no explanation of the reason for stopping me.
“What have I done?” I ask while handing over my documents. “Don’t you know?” the policeman asks back. Well, if I knew, I obviously wouldn’t ask! It turns out that I have driven past a car in the lane next to me heading in the same direction that had stopped at a pedestrian crossing. Apparently I had not acknowledged the pedestrian crossing and stopped myself, even though there was no sign of any pedestrians in the vicinity when I passed through the crossing at 30 km/hr while the other car had in fact been queuing in rush hour traffic. Nonetheless, apparently I have endangered the traffic. Punishment: 450 euros!
Another story: A friend of mine is driving along the highway where a thick fog has made visibility difficult. Naturally he has his fog lights on. The fog, however, is not evenly spread and is missing in some parts of the road as he drives. In a fogless spot, a police car that has been driving behind him for the last half hour stops him. Reason: having the fog lights on! At the end of a lengthy interrogation during which the number of spikes on his car’s winter tires are also counted, the policeman writes a heavy ticket.
Back to my story. Sitting in the police car and looking at the young and unfriendly policeman writing the ticket, I thought of the recent news about Finnish Police lacking money and resources to the extent that they cannot respond to all emergency calls and are planning to “outsource” shopliftings and minor crimes to private guards. The two policeman and their car full of expensive equipment spent around 45 minutes with me that day. At the same time, an emergency caller is probably being told to wait or to forget about it.
Let’s say that if from the around 40 million euros that the Finnish Police earns from traffic fines each year, 10 million of it is from automated traffic control. If the average fine would be 250 euros, and for each case the police would spend one hour (including waiting around the corner to catch the drivers), and there were two policeman involved as usual, 240,000 man-hours of police work are being used for fining drivers.
At the same time, according to a recent survey by Helsingin Sanomat, three out of four violent crimes in Helsinki remain unsolved by police. The same goes for robberies; only a shocking 8 per cent of cases are solved in Helsinki, which means hardly anyone is arrested, unless the offender is caught red handed. When a few years ago our house was burglarized, the police told us forthrightly not to expect an arrest or return of the stolen property.
Mikko Paatero, the head of Finnish Police has frequently claimed that savings are threatening the fundamental police work and may endanger the security of the people. “The number of police and their resources is decreasing, while crime rates are going up,” he has said. However, Mikko Niskasaari, in an article published in Voima Magazine* proved all these claims wrong. In fact the Police budget and number of policemen has been increasing and crimes have been decreasing!
So could it be that the main problem with Finnish Police is management and understanding priorities?
Why does Finnish Police prioritize stalking law-abiding citizens instead of catching criminals? Well, the answer may be that the income from fines is budgeted in the Police funds; i.e. they have to earn their salaries by fining everyday citizens!
* Source: http://fifi.voima.fi/voima-artikkeli/2012/numero-1/poliisi-puhuu-rahaa