Thieves target holiday homes in rural France

Thieves were busy in France in 2013, paying particular attention to holiday homes in rural areas. The number of murders also jumped significantly in rural areas, in certain parts of the country. Find out where crime is on the rise in France.

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

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.

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.”

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French minister investigated after rape allegations

A junior minister in President Emmanuel Macron's government is under investigation after two allegations of rape were brought against her, French prosecutors have said.

French minister investigated after rape allegations

The allegations go back to when Chrysoula Zacharopoulou – who is now state secretary for development, Francophonie and international partnerships – worked as a gynaecologist, according to French magazine Marianne.

One complaint was lodged on May 25th and the investigation opened two days later, the prosecutors said. The second complaint was filed on June 16th.

Greece-born Zacharopoulou, 46, joined the government of Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne in May, having been a member of the European Parliament for the previous three years. She reports to Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna.

She gained prominence in 2015 by campaigning for greater public awareness of endometriosis together with actress Julie Gayet, who this year married former French president Francois Hollande.

Zacharopoulou was strongly involved in the UN’s COVAX coronavirus vaccine rollout effort, and has spoken out in favour of women’s reproductive rights.

These are not the first rape allegations to overshadow Macron’s government and come at a time of political difficulty for the president after he failed to retain a majority in parliamentary elections.

Prosecutors investigated Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin over an allegation for rape filed in 2017. He denied any wrongdoing and prosecutors in
January asked for the case to be dropped.

Rape allegations were also made against Solidarities minister Damien Abad last month but French prosecutors have said they were not currently opening an investigation.