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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Un Français sur cinq « insécure »

by Marie Barbier

One French Person in Five Does Not Feel “Safe”

Translated Tuesday 7 January 2014, by Gene Zbikowski

According to the annual report of the Observatory on Delinquency published on Dec. 19, there is an increasing feeling of insecurity, in spite of the fact that French society has become less violent. The increase is said to be linked to the upsurge in burglaries.

The French national Observatory on Delinquency and Penal Responses (ONDRP) and the French statistics bureau (INSEE) published their seventh annual inquiry on victimization on Dec. 19. It consists in questioning the French about the acts of delinquency which they say they have been victims of. The results are sometimes in sharp contrast to the official figures.

In 2013, one in five of the people questioned (17%) said they had felt unsafe “in their home” or “in their neighborhood.” The figure stood at 16.3% in 2012 and 13.3% in 2008. The proportion of people who said that delinquency is “among the three most worrying problems in French society” is also at its “highest level since 2007,” at 53%. However it is to be noted that “unemployment and precarious employment” remain by far the major worry of the French (for 81% of them).

How is this increase in feeling insecure to be explained?

According to the ONDRP, it is to be put down to “the increase” in the number of French people who say they have been the victims of theft or attempted theft, or “who have heard about such cases in their daily environment.” According to the official figures, there has indeed been a sharp increase in the number of burglaries over the past several months (an 8% to 10% increase, according to the last monthly report). These figures needs to be revised upwards, according to the ONDRP, which says there were 4.2 million cases of theft and attempted theft in France in 2012, which is between twice and three times as high as the official figures. Only 39% of the victims filed a complaint for theft and only 20% for attempted theft. This explains the gap between the ONDRP’s figures and the official figures. Most of the burglaries are the theft of jewels from homes, with the burglars avoiding “coming face to face with their victims or the police.” “Many French people have said, in the course of this inquiry, that they were the victims of this type of burglary … or that they had heard about such cases in their neighborhood, and this feeds the feeling of not being safe,” explained Cyril Rizsk, one of the authorities at the ONDRP. Paradoxically, the 2013 enquiry shows that violence to individuals – a major delinquency problem in the past several years – is “not increasing, or is even decreasing.” “There was a high point, a few years ago, (and) the inquiry perhaps shows that French society seems less violent,” Cyril Rizsk continued.

Moreover, and for the first time, the ONDRP looked into “racist, anti-Semitic, xenophobic,” and “sexist” insults. In 2012, 1.5% of the French said they had been victims of racist, anti-Semitic, or xenophobic insults, and 4.5% of French women said they had been victims of sexist insults, which the ONDRP defines as “insults linked to the fact that one is a woman.”

Very few complaints filed

Fewer than 40% of the men aged 14 and over who said they were the victims of theft or attempted theft involving assault and battery in the past two years said they had filed a complaint, according to the ONDRP’s figures. The rate rises to 52% among female victims. The rate is even lower for non-domestic physical violence, with only 29.6% of the victims filing a complaint. The rate is, nevertheless, on the rise, since it stood at 24.5% in 2010.

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