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France

France to launch crackdown on 15 crime 'hot spots'

Text by Ben MCPARTLAND

Latest update : 2012-08-06

France’s Socialist government is to focus its crime crackdown on 15 of the country’s most blighted districts. Among the priority areas, revealed on Saturday, are neighbourhoods in Marseille and Paris as well as one of the country’s oldest towns.

Some of France’s most crime-ridden districts will soon feel an extra show of strength from the long arm of the law.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who is often referred to as the “Sarkozy of the left” for his right-wing views, has stepped up his battle against crime by focusing his attention on 15 of the worst-affected areas in the country. The districts, known as Priority Security Zones (PSZ), were revealed for the fist time on Saturday by French daily Le Parisien.

Among the areas set to be granted extra resources and police reinforcements are neighbouhoods in Marseille, which are blighted by gun crime, and part of Paris’ 18th arrondisement district, where drug dealing is rife.

The Moulins quarter in the northern city of Lille, which recently witnessed a deadly nightclub shooting, will also come under the radar of authorities as well as three towns in the French oversees territory of Guyana.

“The law and order mandate, which I am in charge of, must be resolutely focussed on these districts and their inhabitants,” said Valls. “This is about responding to the needs of those citizens who are often the most disadvantaged.”

Gun crime and violence a priority

The 15 PSZs have ended up on Valls’ blacklist for a variety of reasons. Not all of the districts are as obvious for police attention as the Marseille suburbs where Kalashnikov assault rifles are the weapon of choice among criminal gangs.

The Neuhof area of Strasbourg makes the list because of a need to tackle violent crime, while the historic rural town of Chambly, to the north of Paris, will come in for special attention because of rising burglary rates and car theft.

The northern quarter of Amiens in the Sommes region and areas of Seine-Saint-Denis to the north of Paris, which witnessed fierce rioting in 2005, are also among the 15 priority zones because of widespread drug dealing and a rampant black market.

The interior ministry selected the priority zones after reviewing the latest police data to identify the areas where high crime levels and, in particular, violent offences had impacted the lives of residents.

“These fifteen areas are a diverse selection of towns in terms of size and geographical location, which witness the full range of crimes,” Valls said.

Residents living in the 15 PSZs should start to see evidence of the new system in September, when Valls’ plan will be put into action.

Extra forces, including riot police, detectives and members of the intelligence services, will be mobilised, and social services, educational bodies and charities will also plough extra resources into the selected areas.

Valls’ plan to focus on hot spots is inspired by similar practices that achieved success across the Atlantic in parts of the United States and Canada in the 1990s.

Concerns raised

According to the criminologist Alain Bauer, a former adviser to Nicolas Sarkozy and a close friend of Valls, targeting priority zones allows the police to be “mobile and adaptable” in the deployment of their forces.

“It’s putting pragmatism over theory,” Bauer told Le Parisien.

Although the plan has won general support from community leaders and police, some officers have raised concerns about the new priority zones.

“This can complicate things,” said Jean-Claude Delage, from the police union Alliance. “There is a risk that you can favour certain areas to the detriment of others. This can be the case even in areas of the same town.”

Yannick Danio, from the police union Unité SGP, also expressed his concern. “It’s fine having reinforcements, but it’s more important to have experienced policemen in place,” Danio told Le Parisien.

If the results of Valls’ much-vaunted policy show a drop in crime, he is expected to name up to 40 more priority zones by summer 2013.

 

Date created : 2012-08-04

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