Random acts of violence, known in France as violences gratuites, are on the rise nationwide. Christophe Soullez, the director of the National Observatory of Delinquency and Criminal Responses (ONDRP), say “youths” in France are now “less tolerant of remarks and show some impatience. They accept less authority. They are more impulsive, and they act out quicker.”
These alarming figures revealed by Le Figaro show a greater impatience and aggressiveness in society, even in the most mundane situations.
In Meyzieu this month, a schoolboy was beaten by his comrades during a “game”. During the same time, on the Internet, a sickening video was uploaded in which an immigrant youth drags a bloodied dog alive with his scooter to the laughter of his friends in the neighbourhood, Bobigny in Seine-Saint-Denis.
In the northern neighbourhoods of Marseille teachers went on strike, on January 16, for their right of withdrawal after the aggression of a teacher by a fifth grade student.
“Ordinary” violence has exploded in France since the beginning of the year, illustrated with the frightening rate of the various incidents.
The uninterrupted rise of these attacks clearly threatens the plan by the Ministry of the Interior to fight against delinquency. These aggressive episodes have already exceeded 2017’s historic record of the 600 000 offenses reported in one year.
“Non-criminal” violence – that is to say all those that were not committed for the purpose of stealing, has increased from 274 737 offenses in 2016 to 283 631 in 2017. That represents on average 777 acts of “gratuitous” violence per day.
They undeniably reflect a degradation of the social climate. And yet these are only facts reported to the police or the gendarmerie, then transmitted to justice. Victimization surveys already show that only a minority of these crimes – 20 percent at most – are brought to the attention of the authorities.
The use of force between citizens or against institutions have become commonplace in France.
“The police see it well. They are more and more victims of a form of barbaric behavior”, Patrice Ribeiro, the boss of Synergie-Officers says.
A trade unionist recalls episodes of Champigny-sur-Marne and Argenteuil, where police were seriously attacked and injured at the beginning of the year. “The uniform is no longer respected and even becomes the target of premeditated attacks,” adds Philippe Capon, head of Unsa-Police.
An officer of an anti-crime brigade in the Paris region is disgusted by what he considers a “new deal”. Today, he says, even when firefighters come to save babies, they have to be protected from those they come to rescue. He said: “Something broke. We see it during police custody. The youngest offenders look at us and insult us now. They did not risk it too much before …”
Soullez says violence rises in “a world with probably more anxiety, with more and more stressed individuals, and more social and professional pressure today”. But in the postwar society, people also experienced huge anxieties without resorting to violence and crime.
The criminologist evoked the gang phenomenon feeding the violence as well as the absence of appropriate sanctions maintaining the impunity.
Last week, classical musician Ophélie Gaillard was attacked in the Paris suburb of Pantin and was held at knife-point by a migrant who stole her antique cello worth 1.3 million euros.
The theft took place on Thursday just as Gaillard was leaving her house to get in her car. The suspect stole the instrument which was crafted in Italy in 1737 at knifepoint, RTL reported.
The instrument was returned on Saturday as the fame and provenance of the instrument mad a resale impossible. “It’s not an instrument that can be sold… on the corner,” said one investigator.
“The theft was very violent, I have not been able to sleep for two days. I am so relieved to have found it. I’m coming out of a two-day nightmare — it’s a miracle,” Gaillard said.
Pantin borders on the Seine-Saint-Denis area, known for its heavily migrant-background population, increasing levels of crime, and frequent riots. Last year, the charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) opened an orientation centre for migrant youth in the suburb.