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France: Misunderstanding the Suburbs [EN]

Juvenile Court Magistrate Jean-Pierre Rosenczveig, has a blog, Droits des Enfants, that is referred to in Le Monde daily of 24 (23) October 2006, "Banlieues, un an après" (££). The actual French "hype" over the risk of another explosion of anger in the suburbs, is considered by the paper as largely caused by uninformed columnists and opinion makers' chatter.

FRFlag.gif(This post is a summary of the original French post >)

Mr. Rosenczveig cites a recent research on the motives behind setting cars on fire. The research finds, that in a large majority of cases, the motives have nothing to do with rebellion and politically motivated destruction:

For whom are those cars set on fire ? (22 October 2006)


A research in the Département du Nord [Lille etc., population about two million, HR] over  1.584 cases of car-arson during nine months, shows that those fires are mostly unrelated to urban violence, although the media tend to assume automatically that they are. How many times do we hear, that youngsters from the urban areas said to be "difficult" are accused of those pyromaniac practices, that are considered acts of social agression and violence? Worse still, as pre-revolutionary actions! 

[...] Now, we have, thanks to the "prevu" monitoring programme, some hard facts on this subject.

In 30% of the cases, the arson is initiated by the car's owner, when the authorities decline to evacuate a car-wreck. This "solution" is favoured by the fact that the insurance companies pay a lump sum, even when tha car was registered as valueless. The Director of Public Security of the Nord Département: "The owner receives € 500,- for his burned car. Sometimes they share that sum fifty-fifty with their friends who set the fire to it."

In 40% of the cases, the arson has to do with making disappear evidence of a potentially criminal nature.

So there are certainly criminal facts that play a role before the car was set on fire, but that has never to do with urban violence as a social aggression or rebellion.

The research learns us that only in 5% of the cases, there may be a connection with a police intervention that has provoked anger.

Finally, another 5% of the researched cases can only be categorized as "stupid games"!


The author asks some restriction and reflection from all those commenters and experts-for-one-day:

Of course, this study doesn't pretend that the arsons of last year were largely unrelated to the suburbs' rebellion. But it calls for prudence in the interpretation of statistics. We shouldn't incriminate indiscriminately everything wrong that happens there, as the suburbs' youngsters' actions.

e-urban: There is need for a more prompt response from the urban practitioners' community to hypes like this one.
We know what really happens in our areas, and we know the facts and how to interpret the statistics. Together with the inhabitants, we have to suffer the consequences of these ill-advised, often provocative, ramblings, for a long time after the moment, the opinion-makers in the media will have abandoned this hype for another...

(Comments please at the original post>) 

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