Monday, January 28, 2008

Marseilles' Busy Criminals

Crime seems so rampant in the southern French city of Marseilles, that a law-abiding citizen is victimized every few minutes... and he is probably getting mighty tired of it.

From the regional paper La Provence, a quick translation of someone having a particularly bad day:

For the young computer maintenance technician in Marseilles, it wasn’t his day … Thursday, around noon, while he was driving along de la Viste Avenue, he had his laptop stolen after imprudently leaving it on his passenger seat.

A few minutes later, still driving down de la Viste, when suddenly 4 individuals on scooters intercepted him and in military style pulled him out of his car, which they then take off with. Along comes a Good Samaritan, on a scooter, who proposes that they pursue the aggressors with his vehicle. Off he goes with the stranger… who carries him all the way to the housing project on de la Viste. At the base of the building, a gang falls upon him and extorts his cel phone from him.
As bad as being robbed three times in one day can be, this next Marseilles story from late December is probably worse. Apparently a bus driver was attacked twice in the space of a few minutes, by two gangs of romanian immigrants. Loosely translated from the French regional newspaper La Provence, this tale of transit terrorism:
In a flash, the knife blade was thrust into the victim’s armpit. Bent over in pain, the 34 year old bus driver crumpled to the floor of the vehicle. After the 9:30 am stabbing the two aggressors took flight on foot, leaving the passengers terrified. The bus had just stopped at the terminal of l’hopital Nord when two men came aboard, but refused to pay their fares.
When the driver asked them to pay, the two responded with insults, threats…and suddenly a knife blow seemingly aimed at the victim’s heart. Yet the suffering was only beginning for the driver. According to eye witness accounts collected by the police, the driver then underwent a second attack. “A few minutes later, just before the arrival of the police, about 30 individuals of Romanian origin arrived at the terminal, armed with iron bars”, said one investigator. The victim, writhing in pain on the ground, was attacked a second time. Taken to emergency services, the driver suffered two wounds, and is greatly traumatized.
Thanks to tips given by witnesses, the suspects were quickly spotted and arrested in the Romanian squat at the chemin du Vallons-des-Pins. One of the two has been formally identified by the victim as the assailant attacking with an iron bar. The alleged attacker is a 30-year old Romanian.
Upon news of the attack, Marseilles bus drivers sprung into action... by going on strike:
Drivers working out of the Arenc and la Rose depots decided to stop all bus
services into the northern Marseilles neighborhoods, in solidarity with their
fallen colleague.

One commentor, zebra3, laments: "By the time this is over there won't be any more busses there!!" Another commentor points to a similar incident in the city of Brest, where the stabbing of a bus driver resulted in all buses heading straight back to the depot. A more cynical commenter suggests not even bothering to collect fares anymore when traveling through "certain" regions.

Where will this all end? Just like the garbage collectors, utility workers and firefighters needing police escorts to operate in these "sensitive" areas, pretty soon bus drivers will demand equal protection. Who could blame them? Arguably even the police now need police escorts in order to properly do their jobs in these neighborhoods…

[The foreboding building in the photo is the notorious “Chateau d’If”, the Alcatraz-like offshore prison located near Marseilles, readily familiar to Alexandre Dumas fans for its role in the novel “Count of Monte Cristo”. Maybe it’s time to put it back to its old use..?]

1 comment:

truepeers said...

Welcome Brussels Journal readers. The translations here are by my colleague, Charles Henry. You can find others from Charles on our home page and in our archives.