An association of frustrated residents in Bordeaux want locals to post pictures of street dealers on a Facebook page, a demand that goes against the grain for many French people who have a deep suspicion of publicly “denouncing” others.
Shopkeepers and residents in the southwestern French city of Bordeaux have asked members of the public to snap pictures of drug dealers and post them to a dedicated Facebook page.
Fed up with dealers selling their wares on the streets with impunity, members of the Saint-Paul District Association have plastered their neighbourhood with posters calling on the public to get them off the streets.
But calling on members of the public to “shop” other citizens to the police poses a particularly French problem: The French generally have a very low opinion of “délateurs” (informers).
The idea of informing on others, whatever their crime, arouses dark memories of wartime denunciations.
And the word “délation” itself makes many French think of the thousands of letters denouncing “undesirables”, sent to the collaborationist Vichy authorities and their Gestapo colleagues.
‘We’re not fascists’
The association has sternly defended its action, with the posters stating that they are “fachés, pas fâchos” – a play on words meaning “we’re angry, but we’re not fascists”.
“It isn’t about informing, it’s about sharing,” said bar owner Jean-Christophe Cabut, the man behind the campaign.
“We want to share on the web what we have to put up with on a daily basis. All we want is some respect. We’re not denouncing innocent people, just the dealers whose activities and behaviour have sullied our daily lives.”
The association, he was keen to point out, included members of “all backgrounds, cultures and political opinions” who had had enough of the misery and fear the dealers brought to their streets.
“The police do their jobs but they can’t be there all the time,” he added. “So we have decided to use the Internet to try and win this battle for ourselves.”
The move does not have the unanimous approval of local residents, French daily Aujourd’hui reported.
‘Taking pictures out of the question’
Actor Xavier Deluc, who lives in the neighbourhood and acts in Bordeaux police drama “Section de Recherches”, told the newspaper: “Yes, the dealers are always here, and yes, they are sometimes aggressive.
“But I really don’t think that asking members of the public to inform on them is the way to resolve the problem. For me, taking pictures of them is completely out of the question.”
His opinion is shared by a 20-year-old student called Olivia: “This appeal is about vigilante justice. It’s the job of the city authorities and the police.”
As a testament to the French lack of appetite for shopping their fellow citizens, the Facebook page – which has been active for a month - had just one blurry entry on Tuesday.
But the publicity may have had an impact: When reporters visited the St Paul district of Bordeaux to cover the story, not one dealer was in sight.
Date created : 2013-04-09