‘Young people are more armed’: Macron warned about rise in violence

French police warned President Emmanuel Macron about rising levels of street violence, as he toured crime hotspots on Monday following a string of shocking assaults.

'Young people are more armed': Macron warned about rise in violence
French President Emmanuel Macron at a visit to a police station in Montpellier, southern France, on April 19th. Photo: Guillaume HORCAJUELO / POOL / AFP

A spate of violent attacks in recent months has made fear of crime a top political issue ahead of presidential elections next year in which Macron is expected to seek a second term.

“We are faced with young people who are more organised, and more heavily armed,” a policewoman named Ludivine told Macron in Montpellier.

Macron was driven around a poverty-wracked part of the southern city in a police car where he spoke to officers and observed drug-dealing spots.

“We are dealing with career criminals, always the same ones, around 50 of them in Montpellier,” the police officer said.

READ ALSO: Domestic violence and rape cases on rise in France as lockdown causes other crimes to fall

Another officer said that anti-police violence had been normalised during the anti-government ‘yellow vest’ revolt, which began in 2018.

Macron asked if police had observed a difference since the protests which often saw demonstrators battle security forces on the streets.

“Yes, demonstrators have become more professional. They don’t hesitate in getting physical with us,” another officer told the French president.

ANALYSIS: Is youth crime in France really ‘out of control’?

Security has become a top political issue in France 12 months ahead of the presidential election.

In a interview with the right-wing Le Figaro newspaper on Sunday, Macron acknowledged that physical assaults had increased.

“Since 2017, even though France has seen a fall of between 18-25 percent in violent thefts, burglaries and vehicle theft, it has had a major increase in physical assaults,” he said.

Macron singled out the rise in violence against police officers, firefighters and medics as being of particular concern.

He has promised to honour a target of recruiting 10,000 extra police officers by 2022 and his government has drafted controversial new legislation aimed at protecting and reinforcing the police.

Several recent crimes have shocked the country.

Alain Françon, one of France’s most prolific theatre directors, was stabbed in the throat near his hotel in central Montpellier in March by a man who told police he objected to Francon looking at him.

In January, a 15-year-old schoolboy was left in a coma after being repeatedly kicked by a gang in a well-heeled neighbourhood of the capital in an assault that captured national media attention for days.

Earlier this month, 78-year-old tycoon Bernard Tapie was tied up with electrical cords along with his wife during a violent overnight robbery at their home outside Paris.

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Top French central banker in corruption probe

French prosecutors said Friday that they had opened a corruption investigation into top central banker Sylvie Goulard, who simultaneously stepped down from the Bank of France.

Top French central banker in corruption probe

The probe covers suspicions of accepting bribes, influence peddling, illegal conflicts of interest and breach of trust, the national financial prosecutor’s office said, confirming a report from daily Liberation.

Graft-fighting group Anticor triggered the probe by filing a criminal report in June, with the investigation launched in September.

In a statement, the Bank of France said Goulard – a former MEP and briefly defence minister under President Emmanuel Macron in 2017 – would be leaving her post as one of the institution’s deputy governors on December 5.

Returning to the foreign ministry?

She wished to “return to the foreign ministry” where she started her civil service career, the bank said.

A source close to Goulard told AFP that her departure had “nothing to do with the investigation”.

“Neither Sylvie Goulard nor her lawyer were informed that the investigation had been reopened,” the source said.

A previous probe in 2019 was closed the following year after no crime was found, case files seen by AFP showed.

Anticor questioned in its complaint the work Goulard performed for the California-based Berggruen Institute think-tank.

She has acknowledged accepting 10,000 euros ($10,530 at current rates) per month working as a “special adviser” to the Council for the Future of Europe, an offshoot of Berggruen, between 2013 and 2016.

Goulard’s explanation

Goulard, who was also an MEP at the time, said her work had “no relation of any kind with the business activities” of the group’s founder, German-American billionaire Nicolas Berggruen.

She said her role included “reflection, moderating groups, organizing meetings”.

Her lawyer declined to respond Friday when contacted by AFP.

The Berggruen Institute denied in 2019 that Goulard had been given a fake job, highlighting that she organised meetings in Brussels, Paris and Madrid.

Goulard has also been charged in a probe into suspected fake jobs among assistants to MEPs from the Democratic Movement, a small centrist party that supports Macron.