It has been called a “radicalization of behavior” and the police verdict is chilling. For several years now, France has faced an upsurge in assaults and mainly stabbing attacks.
The police and gendarmerie have found it difficult to quantify such attacks precisely – only thefts which give rise to the use of this type of weapon are entitled to specific listing. However, the results of the latest study by the National Observatory of Crime and Criminal Justice (ONDRP) on delinquency and penal responses (ONDRP), relayed by French daily Le Figaro, are nonetheless edifying.
This final investigation by the organisation – which will paradoxically be dissolved on December 31 – runs from 2015 to 2017. It estimated that the number of victims of stabbing attacks rose to 44 000 over this period, which means a stunning 120 victims per day on average.
According to Le Figaro, this figure corresponds to 37 percent of the 118 000 people who declared, on average each year, that they had suffered physical violence from a person not living with them at the time of the events.
These are simply attacks in the public space, whether on the street, outside a nightclub, at work or at school. This figure places assaults with a knife in top position, ahead of assaults with an accidental weapon (34 percent), which includes a blunt object, a stick or a stone, or those with another type of weapon, such as a baton or a tear gas canister (20 percent), and those with firearms (9 percent).
This increase in stabbing attacks is also part of the broader perspective of a general increase in violence, which has more than doubled since 2001, according to Le Figaro, whether between individuals (around 300 000 incidents per year today) or against the custodians of authority (more than 38 000 offenses declared in 2019).
When we look at the figures from the police and the gendarmerie, the picture is sadly similar. If only thefts with knives are specifically counted by the authorities, such attacks have still increased to 21 percent in January of last year compared to the same period in 2018.
In addition, murders and murder attempts have also exploded over the last two decades. In fact, these offenses characterized by the intention to kill, whether the crime was successful or not, rose between 2001 and 2019 from approximately 2 200 incidents to more than 3 800 last year, an increase of more than 70 percent.
The ONDRP is a body of remarkable discretion – perhaps due to its unpronounceable acronym – whose mission is to report on developments in delinquency and criminal phenomena in France as well as the penal responses to them. These mainly statistical reports are regularly used to try to measure the general state of the country in terms of delinquency and crime.
It appears that the main concern of these official, public and generally fairly reliable statistics is that they can be used by an unsympathetic media or “political agitators” who do not hesitate to paint awful picture of reality.
Each year, when an unpleasant crime statistic resurfaces, politicians quickly make it disappear, minimize it or divert it from its meaning to come to the conclusion that if things are not rosy, this is not is not really a disaster.
For politicians, it is not cars that burn, it is not the shootings that accumulate, it is not the staggering numbers of recurrences of knife attacks. The problem rather lies in the existence of these statistics, of these numbers which, apparently would incite some to commit even more crimes and offenses.
In this context, it is not too surprising that the Prime Minister finally decided to do away with this intriguing appendage whose mission is more like a thorn in the side of government: the Office will close its doors to the end of this year.
In addition, this closure is accompanied by the transfer of part of its objectives to INSEE and the statistical services of the Ministries of the Interior and of Justice.
Analysts told Atlantico that they remained skeptical about the quality of the data that will be provided to INSEE, since the data will be coming from two ministries whose resources are currently being mobilized for “internal security issues” as journalist Jean-Dominique Merchet reported in L’Opinion.
The independence of these bodies vis-à-vis government ministries may have been the real problem as social networks have, for example, done significant background work to force the government to take into account police violence in the Yellow Vests crisis.
It has been difficult to deny the images, testimonies, videos that have accumulated. The attempt to stifle the number of cars burned this year did not work (ultimately, 1457 went up in smoke , which is again a sad record).
Nevertheless, for a country like France whose mainstream politicians noisily claim to be the modern beacon of Human Rights, but want to be free from all objectivity in its statistics, is not a good sign.