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