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Owner abandons car park after gangs take over

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10:28 CEST+02:00

A car park in Marseille has been overrun by gangs of youths who threaten staff and demand money from drivers. Things have got so bad that the company in charge, Vinci, has given up trying to run it.

The car park, known as the Parking Jules Guesda, is situated in Porte d'Aix, a well-known trouble spot in Marseille.

Local newspaper La Provence reports that the problem started in late 2010 when a group of youths started arriving after the car park's staff went home. 

They would demand payment of €5 from drivers as they tried to leave the car park, only lifting the barrier when money had been handed over.

Since then reports of violence and intimidation have worsened. Automatic payment machines have frequently been set on fire. Drivers have been mugged while heading to their cars. Other criminals have moved in and conditions in the car park have deteriorated.

La Provence quotes Alain Dulion who said he was mugged close to his car. "I had been clothes shopping when someone came up behind me and grabbed my gold chain." Alain even tried to take advantage of the services of the gang running the car park, by asking one of the men lifting the barrier to find his attacker. "I offered him €500 if he could find the thief," he said, although he has not had any success.

Vinci claims to have registered "20 complaints" to the city authorities. The company told the newspaper that "no-one did anything … we are a company that runs car parks, not a law enforcement agency"

"There are lots of dangerous people in this area," the area's mayor, Lisette Narducci, told La Provence. "I'm very worried. Things are getting worse and I'm ashamed to think this is France's second city. If the city authorities don't do anything, things will never get better."

Newspaper Le Figaro reported a spokesman for the city authorities, Eugène Caselli, sa saying the situation had become "impossible." On Wednesday, he announced that security would be stepped up in an effort to regain control of the car park again by the start of September.


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