The mayor of a small French town has warned of the growing problems rural communities across France face with delinquency, violence and drug dealing and has called on the government to do more.
Antoine Valentin, the mayor of the small town of Saint-Jeoire, has sounded the alarm about the growing insecurity in rural French areas and highlighted the way in which local drug dealers are not only well-known by locals but act largely with impunity.
In an opinion article for the French newspaper Le Figaro, Valentin wrote that local drug dealers rare face long prison sentences and find themselves back to the small towns “very quickly.”
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“Without embarrassment, they are the owners of the most beautiful SUVs in the area, far ahead of the local doctor or contractor. The gendarmes, understaffed, are struggling to dismantle the networks. When they succeed with an incredible amount of work, the penalties are so low that they do not discourage anyone except perhaps the investigators themselves,” he said.
According to French Interior Ministry statistics, 2020 saw an eight per cent increase in violence in rural areas while urban areas saw a decline of five per cent during the same period.
Some specific rural areas such as those within the department of Ille-et-Vilaine in Brittany have reported as much as a 20 per cent increase in violence last year.
Mayor Valentin stated that small town have also seen budget cuts and lack the proper police force to deal with the surge of delinquency and crime.
“In my village, the gendarmerie brigade, thanks to merging with a neighbouring commune, no longer opens to the public. Residents must now take their vehicles, to travel several kilometres, if they wish to file a complaint,” he said.
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France has seen increases in violence and violent crime in recent years, with a report published last year claiming that murders had increased by 8.5 per cent and sexual violence by 12 per cent.
French professor of Criminology Alain Bauer went on to state in September that 2019 had been the worst year for homicides and attempted homicides in recent French history.