Thursday, May 21, 2009

Criminals Beware!

By all means read Thomas Landen's excellent summary of Nicolas Sarkozy's record on crime and credibility (or lack thereof), and his chances for winning in the EU elections. The article posted at The Brussels Journal deals with several topics that I have covered over the last many months, but Landen has conveniently put everything together under one roof.

One topic he dwells on is Sarkozy's current campaign promise to fight even harder against crime. Considering how little he has done (and Landen points out that the French feel less safe today than seven years ago, when Sarkozy became interior minister) this promise becomes something of a joke, like his oft-repeated proclamations against Turkey in the EU.

In mid-April, Le Figaro reported on Nicolas Sarkozy's new anti-crime plan. (The photo shows him in Nice, unveiling his project.)You will see that it is like putting a band-aid on a hemorrhaging wound. It doesn't even sound good in theory since it never addresses the major cause - immigration. And it complicates the situation by creating new crimes, which may actually increase crime, since every new law often results in renewed resourcefulness on the part of criminals:

"Expressing his satisfaction over the drop in the annual number of crimes - down 15% in seven years, or "two million victims spared", according to Sarkozy, (...) he now hopes to accelerate the trend.

Note: There is something not quite right in his satisfaction. First, as Thomas Landen points out, certain types of violent crimes have increased. But in addition, to say "two million victims spared" is to betray his awareness of how bad the crime situation really is. Why does he wait for the European elections to suddenly get "tough"on crime? Silly question.

Belonging to a gang is henceforth a punishable offense. The deputy-mayor of Nice Christian Estrosi has been commissioned to draw up a bill to reenforce the laws against violent gangs.

Note: Estrosi was Sarkozy's man during the 2007 legislative elections. Placed on the UMP ballot by the president, he defeated former deputy from Nice Jérôme Rivière, who had been kicked off the ballot after expressing views that differed from those of Nicolas Sarkozy. Rivière ran as an independent but was unable to counteract the momentum of the UMP landslide.

Note: According to Thomas Landen:

Public gang warfare in France erupted in earnest during the Sarkozy era. Since late 2007, gangs from all over Paris regularly meet up for fights in underground, bus and train stations. One and a half years later this sort of violence has become routine.

So having created a deadly problem, Sarkozy now boasts that he will make it illegal. I know that gang members are trembling in their boots.

To demonstrate in a rally wearing a mask is now a crime as well, as it is in several other countries such as Germany. Nicolas Sarkozy is also concerned about the intrusion of thugs in schools. "Violence in schools is a scandal. The school should be a sanctuary." (...) For example, "to enter or to stay inside the boundaries of a school" without authorization is now punishable by one year in prison and a 7,500 euro fine. Thomas Landen gives a good summary of some recent attacks in schools - but these are the tip of the iceberg.

But the most cynical measure involves the availability of legal counsel:

Finally, Nicolas Sarkozy asked that the possibility for a victim to have "a lawyer at the moment of the assault" be examined. Pointing out that the criminal "has a right to a lawyer the minute a case is opened", the president hopes to "determine in what circumstances the victim could be treated as well as the criminal."

Isn't that reassuring? Now, if you're raped, mugged, beaten, or robbed, you can recuperate with your mind at ease knowing you will have a lawyer almost as quickly as the privileged criminal who assaulted you.

As the French say: "Il se moque de nous." (He takes us for fools).

Those interested can turn to this interactive map of France showing the crime rates in each of the departments, including those overseas. Due to the nature of the illustration it cannot be copied. Run your cursor over each department to see the name of the department, followed by the rate of crime, then the number of attacks in 2008, and the variation from one year before (I assume that is what "variation sur un an" refers to). The greatest number of crimes are committed in the north central part of the country, in particular Paris and surrounding suburbs. In Paris alone there were 34,434 assaults during 2008. (Paris is the tiniest brown circle between Val-de-Marne and Seine-Saint-Denis). Note also the overseas departments pictured at the top left of the map. Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Guiana rival Seine-Saint-Denis in terms of crime rate.

Not surprisingly, after the northern departments, the area around Marseilles (Bouches-du-Rhône) has the most significant crime rate.

It certainly doesn't take much brainwork to figure out why certain areas have more crime than others.

The map deals with crimes against persons, and includes robbery with violence, violence where robbery is not a motive, sexual violence and threats of violence.

If you click "atteintes aux biens" at the top right of the map you will see another map illustrating the rates of crime against property. These include theft, destruction and damage to property. Once again it looks like Paris wins the sweepstakes.

Update: May 22 - A minor editorial adjustment has been made in this post. It does not in any way affect the translation of Le Figaro's article or the article by Thomas Landen.

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