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France

Marseille locals ‘call on Batman’ to fight crime

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Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-08-24

Desperate Marseille residents say they might be forced to call on Batman to save them as police and politicians struggle to curb the city’s rampant street crime. The call came after a week of violence in which a pensioner was shot dead in the street.

A collective of concerned residents in Marseille has launched a mock appeal to fictional crime-busting hero, Batman, as the city’s street crime rates continue to spiral.

The locals launched a petition called “Un Batman pour Marseille” (a Batman for Marseille) following an emergency meeting held by six government members on Tuesday which they deemed inconclusive.

“It’s always the same – when it suits them, politicians are suddenly concerned. Then half of them go back to Paris, the other half forget,” Jean-Baptiste Jaussaud, spokesperson of the collective, told French daily Libération on Wednesday. “They promise us more police, even suggest sending in the army… Next they’ll be talking about calling in Batman!”

The collective denounced the “lack of insight” of the government and local elected officials concerning the problem.

Marseille has been plagued in recent years by a wave of shootings, often with Kalashnikov assault rifles, connected with the drug trade.

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On Thursday, a pensioner was killed when he tried to prevent two men who had held up a tobacconist in a suburb of the city from fleeing the scene.

Jaques Blondel, 61, was shot dead after he rammed the robbers’ scooter with his car and emerged with a baseball bat and pepper spray. His wife and granddaughter were in the car when he was shot twice by the men, who then fled.

Blondel was hailed a hero by Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who described his attempt to intervene as “an act of bravery that commands respect”. One of the suspected assailants was arrested on Friday.

The fatal attack was the latest in a string of street-killings in Marseille this year and followed two other brutal attacks earlier this month.

On August 9, a 22-year-old student had his throat cut in the city centre and on Sunday an 18-year-old was stabbed to death near Marseille's iconic Old Port after a bar fight.

One of the suspects in the stabbing on Sunday later wounded a nurse with a knife after being asked for identity papers while seeking treatment at a hospital.

There have been 13 gang-related murders in the city so far this year.

But critics accuse the government of ignoring the city's underlying problems of poverty, unemployment and the marginalisation of ethnic minorities.

Despite the regeneration of its port and the boost it has received as 2013 European City of Culture, Marseille remains a poor city, with fewer than half of households paying income tax.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-08-23

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