Paris public transport ranked worst in France for thefts and assaults

Paris is the French city with the highest number of crimes on its public transport, according to Interior Ministry figures. However, lockdowns caused crime to stall across the country in 2020.

Paris public transport ranked worst in France for thefts and assaults
The number of attacks on public transport, however, fell significantly across all cities in France in 2020 compared to 2019. Photo: Stephane de Sakutin/AFP

Taking the metro in Paris can sometimes be a bit stressful to say the least. According to data from the Interior Ministry reported by Le Figaro newspaper, the French capital is the city with the highest levels of thefts and physical assaults on public transport.

In 2020, 54,856 people were victims of theft or violence on the RATP (the Paris transport network), which represents 25 victims per 1,000 inhabitants.

READ ALSO: How transport in Paris will change in 2022

Paris tops the list of regions with the most theft and violent incidents on public transport. It’s followed by the city of Saint-Denis in the northern suburbs of Paris, with 2,218 victims of aggression, representing 19 victims per 1,000 inhabitants.

According to the Interior Ministry’s statistics the culprits tend to be young. In 74 percent of cases, they are between the ages of 13 and 29.

In light of these figures, the RATP stressed that it has taken steps to fight against crime on its bus, tram and metro network. The company primarily relies on 51,000 surveillance cameras and 1,000 security patrol agents.

Many Parisians, particularly women, have complained about the lack of security on the Paris Metro in recent years. According to a 2017 study by the Institute of Urbanism and Planning (IAU), one in two women in France feel unsafe when taking public transport, compared 26.7 percent of men.

An even more shocking study from 2015 found that 100 percent of women in France have experienced some sort of harassment on public transport.

READ ALSO: Fed-up Paris Metro commuters launch fresh campaign against sexual harassment

Lockdowns caused urban crime to fall

The number of attacks on public transport, however, fell significantly across all cities in France in 2020 compared to 2019. This is not surprising: the successive lockdowns emptied out cities across France, in particular Paris, of residents and tourists.

Working from home rules and shop closures reduced the crowds in metros, trams and buses, causing the number of attacks to plummet. Crime on public transport fell by 29 percent in Paris and 18 percent in Saint Denis.

Some cities saw an even bigger impact due to the drastic drop in public transport use, with crime dropping by 65 percent in Grenoble and 45 percent in Bordeaux.

READ ALSO: 5 ways the Paris Metro catches out unwary tourists

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Burkini: Why is the French interior minister getting involved in women’s swimwear?

Bikini, topless, swimsuit, wetsuit, burkini - what women wear to go swimming in France is apparently the business of the Interior Minister. Here's why.

Burkini: Why is the French interior minister getting involved in women's swimwear?

It’s a row that erupts regularly in France – the use of the ‘burkini’ swimsuit for women – but this year there is an added wrinkle thanks to the country’s new anti-separatism law.

What has happened?

Local authorities in Grenoble, eastern France, have updated the rules on swimwear in municipal pools.

French pools typically have strict rules on what you can wear, which are set by the local authority.

For women the rule is generally a one-piece swimsuit or bikini, but not a monokini – the term in France for wearing bikini bottoms only, or going topless. For men it’s Speedos and not baggy swim-shorts and many areas also stipulate a swimming cap for both sexes.

These rules typically apply only to local-authority run pools, if you’re in a privately-owned pool such as one attached to a hotel, spa or campsite then it’s up to the owners to decide the rules and if you’re lucky enough to have a private pool then obviously you can wear (or not wear) what you want.

READ ALSO Why are the French so obsessed with Speedos?

Now authorities in Grenoble have decided to relax their rules and allow baggy swim shorts for men while women can go topless (monokini) or wear the full-cover swimsuit known as the ‘burkini’. This is essentially a swimsuit that has arms and legs, similar in shape to a wetsuit but made of lighter fabric, while some types also have a head covering.

Is this a problem?

No-one seems to have had an issue with the swim shorts or the topless rule, but the addition of the ‘burkini’ to the list of accepted swimwear has caused a major stir, with many lining up to condemn the move.

Those against it insist that it’s not about comfy swimwear, it’s about laïcité – that is, the French secularism rules that also outlaw the wearing of religious clothing such as the Muslim headscarf and the Jewish kippah in State spaces such as schools and government offices.

READ ALSO Laïcité: How does France’s secularism law work?

The burkini is predominantly worn by Muslim women, although some non-Muslim women also prefer it because it’s more modest and – for outdoor pools – provides better sun protection. 

Grenoble’s mayor Eric Piolle, one of the country’s highest profile Green politicians who leads a broad left-wing coalition locally, has championed the city’s move as a victory.

“All we want is for women and men to be able to dress how they want,” Piolle told broadcaster RMC.

Is this France’s first burkini row?

Definitely not, the modest swimsuit has been causing a stir for some years now.

In 2016 several towns in the south of France attempted to ban the burkini on their beaches. This went all the way to the Constitutional Court, which ruled that such a ban was unconstitutional, and the State cannot dictate what people wear on the beach.

The situation in municipal pools is slightly different in that local authorities can make their own rules under local bylaws. Most pools don’t explicitly ban the burkini, but instead list what is acceptable – and that’s usually either a one-piece swimsuit or a bikini. These decisions are taken on hygiene, not religious, grounds.

The northwestern city of Rennes quietly updated its pool code in 2019 to allow burkinis and other types of swimwear, which seems to have passed unnoticed until the Grenoble row erupted.

Why is the Interior Minister getting involved?

What’s different about the latest row is the direct involvement of the Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin. He appears to have no objection to topless swimming in Grenoble, but he is very upset about women covering up when going for a dip.

No, he’s not some kind of creepy beauty pageant judge from the 1970s – he’s upset about laïcité.

Darmanin called the decision “an unacceptable provocation” that is “contrary to our values”.

He has ordered the local Préfet to open a review of the decision, and later announced that prosecutors had opened an inquiry into Alliance Citoyenne, a group that supports the wearing of burkinis in pools.

And the reason that he gets to intervene directly on the issue of local swimming pools rules is France’s ‘anti-separatism’ law that was passed in 2020.

This wide-ranging law covers all sorts of issues from radical preaching in mosques to home-schooling, but it also bans local councils from agreeing to ‘religious demands’ and among its provisions it allows the Interior Minister to intervene directly on certain issues.

So far this power has been used mostly to deal with extremism in mosques, several of which have been closed down for short periods while extremist preachers were removed.

Darmanin’s foray into women’s swimwear seems to represent an extension of the use of these powers. 

Is this all because there is an election coming up?

Parliamentary elections are coming up in June and the political temperature is rising. It’s certainly noticeable that in Darmanin’s initial tweet about the matter he referred to Grenoble mayor Eric Piolle as a “supporter of Mélenchon”, although Piolle is actually a member of the Green party.

Mélenchon and his alliance of leftist parties are currently the main rival for Macron’s LREM at the parliamentary elections.