France's Rising Crime Rate
Crime is worsening in France according to this article from Le Figaro. The month of November 2012 registered 15,000 more victims than the same month last year (295,000 reported incidents compared with 280,000 in November 2011).
Behind this one figure, too general to be meaningful, lies hidden a systemic deterioration. Physical attacks have increased by 5%, damage to property, essentially thefts, by 6.8% (191,600 incidents), and economic and financial crimes, a veritable plague in these times of crisis, by 13.2% (27,000 incidents).
A closer look reveals that thefts in principal and secondary residences, always a priority, exploded by 17.2% (more than 24,000 incidents), break-ins of businesses by 12.7% (almost 6000 incidents). As for organized crime, it experienced an increase of 5.5% in major and minor crimes (2600 incidents). This is logical given the chronicle of crimes in Marseille, the suburbs and Corsica.
Already in October the gendarmes had announced a 25% increase in violence in the rural and suburban zones where they are on duty. This observation was dismissed as being "atypical" by the ONDRP (National Observatory of Crime and Punishment).
But in November this explanation no longer held up. Violence again increased by 19% in the zones patrolled by the gendarmes, while home burglaries increased by 21.7% (10,400 incidents). In October the gendarmerie was confident that these unusual statistical increases were the result of a new software that could not make an error. "The rise in crimes, both major and minor, began in June in the gendarme-controlled zones, while this new software was implemented early in the year," said the ONDRP. "It is impossible, in this circumstance, not to envisage an objective increase in crime," remarked Bruno Beschizza, former police unionist, now regional councilor of the UMP party in Seine-Saint-Denis. He also recalled: "On November 29 Interior Minister Manuel Valls had imprudently announced on television that physical attacks were down for November, even though the month had not yet ended."
The controversy over the figures prompted Valls to overreact in the National Assembly on November 14, when lost his temper shouting to the UMP deputies: "The return of terrorism in France is your fault!". UMP deputy Eric Ciotti stopped him. Valls later regretted his remark after a friendly reprimand from François Hollande in person.
In January the software used by the Interior Ministry will be changed. Supposedly it will be more complete. The Ministry also announced that victims will be able to file a complaint online. Reforms that had been conceived under Sarkozy, but put on the back burner during the presidential campaign…
Manuel Valls wants to see this project through. Will we have accurate statistics at last? His role model Georges Clémenceau said in his day: "What we call truth is merely the elimination of errors."
Black November for ParisWhat is happening on the Parisian rails? Last November there was a 52.3% increase in pickpockets (1494 incidents), a 21.4% increase in thefts (1351 incidents) and a 19.6% increase in violent thefts (894 incidents).
The Paris Police Prefect Bernard Boucault has spoken of a "plan of action" against pickpockets. "Without further ado, we are working to reverse the trend. For example, a targeted strategy against 'morning pickpockets' allowed us to arrest more than eighty of those who operate in the early morning hours," he declared. The Perfecture knows it must mobilize. And not only in the subway and regional rail. Globally within Paris the police solved no more than 30% of the cases last month compared to 40% in 2011. A lack of motivation plus a reduced staff against illegal immigration were the causes, according to those in the Prefect's close circle.
Here's a paragraph from the United States Embassy's instructions to tourists on how to avoid pickpockets in Paris:
If you do have your pocket picked, start yelling for the police immediately. If none respond, go to the local police station (commissariat) and file a complaint. Don't chase down whoever you think stole your wallet. Remember if they work in groups, your wallet was most likely handed off before you realized it was gone. If you chase down and grab who you think is the culprit and he/she doesn't have your wallet, you could get into deep trouble, fast. Find yourself a police officer and make an immediate report.
What struck me was the line: "… you could get into deep trouble, fast". It shows that the Embassy is keenly aware of the potentially serious problems people have when they try to defend themselves. The "deep trouble" being, I presume, reprisals from those you chased down. So you may lose more than your wallet in the end. And it's funny because it doesn't sound like official Embassy language, but more like everyday street talk.
The three-part graph above shows statistics for 2011 in blue and for 2012 in red. The three parts correspond to: violence against persons, personal property damage, and economic and financial crimes.