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Thieves target holiday homes in rural France
French burglars are increasingly targeting holiday homes. Photo: Vic Burton/Flickr

Thieves target holiday homes in rural France

Joshua Melvin · 23 Jan 2014, 11:16

Published: 23 Jan 2014 11:16 GMT+01:00

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Burglary and theft were up in 2013 across France, but violent crime was mostly stable or down except for a spike in murders in rural areas, according to the annual national crime report, released on Thursday.

There was a 6.4 percent jump in burglaries in urban areas, while the countryside saw a 4.7 percent increase from the previous year.

Holiday homes across France also appeared to be the target of choice for burglars with break-ins at second homes seeing a 10 percent rise in towns and a 17 percent hike in rural areas, according to results from the National observatory of crime and criminal liability (ONDRP).

However the rise in theft and burglary was lower than the previous year’s increase, which French authorities tied to organized criminal networks from Eastern Europe. The trend prompted France’s "top cop", Interior Minister Manuel Valls, to launch new efforts to combat the gangs.

Perhaps predictably, the head of France's far right party National Front, Marine Le Pen, was quick to jump on the crime figures to push their political agenda, with local elections less than two months away.

“With the opening of the borders…Mafia and criminal networks have set up in France,” she told BFM TV.

Despite a 4.2 percent drop in murders in French towns and cities in 2013, the gendarmerie, which mainly polices the rural areas, reported a 14.9 percent jump in killings in their zones.

The department with the highest rate of murders was the Bouches du Rhones department of France, which includes the crime-ridden city of Marseille. The city has been plagued by gang and drug violence in recent  years that has been spurred by the availability of Kalashnikov assault rifles from Eastern Europe.

Between 2008-2013 Bouches du Rhone saw an average of 50 killings per year, of which 18 were pinned on the setting of scores in the criminal underworld. Across the country these sort of crime-connected slayings dropped slightly to 51 in 2013, over 63 in the previous year.

Increases in violent crime were minor compared to prior years, when the rates were a black mark against law enforcement efforts. Urban areas marked less than a one percent increase, while rural jurisdictions saw a 5.7 percent hike.    

The fact that theft and burglaries are up in France, will not likely surprise the mayor of a tiny French village who has proposed arming his residents with tear gas after a town councillor was shot in his own home by thieves.

Story continues below…

The village's mayor Didier Jobit and the town council were hoping to turn residents away from more violent means of self-defense.

“The residents’ first reaction was to load their guns and leave them by the door. That’s a real problem for me,” Jobit told The Local. “I told them to put their guns back in the attic. It’s better, with some training, to use the tear gas, which will send the attacker running. Then they should lock themselves in a room and call the police.”

Joshua Melvin (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

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