Thursday, October 2, 2003

Finland introduces new law to curb public drinking, prostitution

HELSINKI, Finland — Finland introduced new legislation Wednesday that bans public drinking, streetwalkers, and rowdy behavior, a move they hope will curb youth drunkenness and increase public safety.

The nationwide public order law replaces 200-year-old local municipal regulations that differed widely in the sparsely populated Nordic country of 5.2 million.

"It's good that the law is the same throughout the country," said Superintendent Teuvo Saikkonen from the Helsinki District Police. "It's a logical step."

The law bans the sale or purchase of sexual services in public places, drug use, urinating and defecating or causing a public disturbance. It also forbids the possession of spray paint used for graffiti and stipulates that dogs must be kept on a leash and their droppings removed by owners.

Although drinking alcohol in public is generally banned, police will allow it in parks if it causes no disturbance to others, Saikkonen said.

"If people behave properly then it's OK, but if they cart crates of beer and take over a park or similar public place simply for boozing then they've crossed the line," he said.

The Public Order Act, approved by lawmakers earlier this year, was sparked by concerns over an increasing trend of heavy drinking by young people, especially during holidays, and a flood of complaints from city residents when prostitutes began arriving from nearby Russia and Estonia after the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union.

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Created: November 24, 2003
Last modified: January 17, 2004
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