- The Washington Times - Friday, July 27, 2001

PARIS Thousands of policemen and temporary auxiliaries have been mobilized to stem the wave of violence spreading from France's urban ghettoes to the posh Riviera resorts.
The violence, including assaults, car burnings and thefts by organized gangs, has reached unprecedented proportions, becoming the most urgent problem in a country considered to be among the world's leading tourist attractions.
Foreign tourists 70 million are expected this year are being cautioned not to venture into "problem areas" and to watch out for their belongings in seaside resorts.
The degree of crime has stunned France, even more than accusations of abuse of public funds against President Jacques Chirac.
During the weekend of July 14, the 212th anniversary of the French Revolution, 130 cars were torched in Paris and its suburbs, mainly by gangs of rampaging youths.
During the 24 hours that followed the traditional military parade, Paris police also reported a series of muggings of elderly people and holdups. Several police stations were attacked with makeshift incendiary bombs in the vicinity of the French capital.
Elsewhere in France, policemen and firemen were attacked by stone-throwing gangs and organized group of youths, some of them hooded and armed with iron bars.
Mr. Chirac, France's conservative president, has blamed the socialist government of Premier Lionel Jospin for allowing the security situation to get out of hand.
"We have reached a situation which has become intolerable," Mr. Chirac said. "It must be stopped. The insecurity is not unavoidable. There is a lack of authority of the state and lack of political will to maintain security."
Although describing the president's statement as "alarmist" and part of his "political polemics" against the socialists, the government has moved into action.
According to figures released by the Interior Ministry, additional security apparatus during the summer vacations will include 3,000 paramilitary gendarmes and their auxiliaries and 2,055 policemen. The majority of them are being deployed in coastal areas that traditionally attract most vacationers.
Special "security stations" have been set up near the beaches. Reserve units have been rushed to areas known for attracting large groups of youths for "rave parties" and rock-music events.
A number of towns have declared midnight curfews for unaccompanied children below age 13.
In such internationally known resort areas as Nice and Cannes, clashes between gangs of youths using knives and chains are being reported almost every night.
The authorities have distributed close to 300,000 pamphlets in several languages to tourists flocking to the area, listing the most frequent crimes and advising on how to avoid them.
In addition to theft the most frequent crime scenes of violence have been reported from municipal swimming pools. Last week, the Nakache swimming pool in Toulouse was shut down after two lifeguards were beaten up by youths.
According to Didier Lapeyronnie, a sociologist, one cause of the unrest is unemployment and living conditions in crowded urban ghettoes, to a large extent inhabited by immigrants from France's former colonies.
"Today these people consider security services as part of the repressive apparatus which effectively isolates and excludes them," he said. "Their reasoning is that since the system rejects them, why cooperate with it?"

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