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Trouble in Marseille

With acts of violence and trafficking of all kinds going on in broad daylight, crime has become rife in Marseille and is affecting all parts of the city. Teenagers from the estates cause chaos and the police seem overwhelmed. Residents are wondering if the government has given up on them.

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Marseille, France’s Mediterranean melting pot, is famous for its port, its pastis - and its criminal underworld. The city that featured in 1970s cop flick “The French Connection” and spawned legendary gangsters like Francis Le Belge has long been familiar with organised crime. But the past year has seen a highly-publicised rise in violence and anti-social behaviour which has left some residents worried their city is out of control. France 24’s Chris Moore and Karim Hakiki went to sample the atmosphere on the streets.

22 year-old Johnny sits on a bench in a dilapidated corner of the 15th arrondissement. Tucked away between main roads and tower blocks, his neighbourhood has been abandoned. Businesses are boarded up, public services are absent and locals complain of habitual discrimination at the hands of the police. With few opportunities to earn a regular living, it’s no surprise, he says, that young people deal drugs and steal: “It’s like Robin Hood.”

Over on the other side of town, greengrocer Henri has suffered three robberies in the space of a year, one of them a violent break-in at his home which has left his wife and son traumatised. He tells us the police have been overwhelmed as cases like his become more common. Sceptical as to the effectiveness of the authorities, he’s taking matters into his own hands.

According to Marseille’s state prosecutor, a relaxed attitude to petty crime is part of the city’s problem. It’s great living somewhere with a “laissez-faire” attitude, he says, but the downside is that people ignore basic rules and regulations. What’s more, the criminals are getting younger and more violent. Has a watershed been reached, where “laissez-faire” has become “anything goes?”

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