Unofficial figures published in a French newspaper on Tuesday suggest crime rates, notably violent offences, have risen dramatically in France. The figures were seized upon by opposition parties and provoked a fiery spat in parliament.
Violent attacks against individuals have rocketed in France, with 44,000 offences committed in October, as unofficial figures published on Monday revealed crime has risen dramatically in the country.
The latest crime data, which was published in right-wing daily Le Figaro, showed the level of violent attacks shot up by nine percent in October 2012 when compared to the same month in 2011.
In rural areas, the rise in the number of recorded acts of violence against individuals was even more marked, rising by a staggering 24.9%, although it is understood this can be attributed to a new system of recording crimes.
Offences against property, including theft and burglary, also rose by 8 percent over the same time period, while financial crimes soared by 18%. Organised banditry, which includes offences like armed robbery, rose by 7.4%, according to the Le Figaro's figures, which noted the Interior Ministry as its source.
Even though the official figures were not due to be published by the government until the end of November, Le Figaro’s report was seized upon by France’s right-wing opposition groups keen to portray the Socialist government as being soft on crime.
‘Explosion of crime’
Eric Ciotti, the centre-right UMP member of parliament for Nice, who is considered the party’s security chief, denounced the “explosion of crime” under François Hollande’s administration.
“Despite all the blustering from the government, all indicators for crime and delinquency are flashing red,” said Cotti.
Although France’s Interior Minister Manuel Valls was eager to play down the statistics, saying they were a legacy of the previous administrations “policy of setting targets”, he was clearly unnerved by their publication.
Later on Tuesday, when Valls faced repeated questions on the figures from his opposition rival Ciotti in parliament, he reacted angrily, accusing the opposition of being responsible for a rise in terrorism in France.
“The rise in crime is down to you. The cuts to the police force numbers are down to you and the return of terrorism in this country is down to you,” he blurted, to the outrage of the opposition.
‘Figures do not respond to reality’
Earlier, Valls’ Interior Ministry had moved quickly to defend its record on fighting crime, claiming the figures were a statistical anomaly for which the previous government was to blame.
In a statement from the Ministry, Valls, who the public consider as the strongman of the Socialist government, insisted the crime figures “did not correspond to reality”.
The interior minister said the figures were ‘incomplete’ and can be explained by changes to the way in which crimes are reported and logged. He accused the previous regime of creating a “statistical time-bomb” for the new government by constantly postponing these changes when they were in power.
“If the figures look bad today, it is above all down to manipulations caused by the setting of targets by the previous government,” Valls said the statement.
Valls also re-avowed his determination to reform the system of logging crime stats to make it “totally transparent”.
Earlier this week, Valls announced a further measure aimed it improving crime fighting efforts by vowing to reform the body that investigates the police, the IGS, in order to make it more independent from the state.