Thursday, June 26, 2008

Marseilles' Routine Train Robberies

An epidemic of train robberies are starting to get out of hand near the French port city of Marseille, the French press reports this week.

Evoking the methods of train robbers of old, attack after attack is taking place in the northern municipality of Saint-Louis. Things are getting so out of hand, the authorities might, just might, start having to do something about it.

Loosely translated from the account carried in the regional newspaper La Provence:

A simple garbage container across the rails. This is how four men succeeded in stopping a 700-meter long train, carrying 30 railcars, in order to steal some of the computer hardware the train was transporting yesterday morning, around 5:30 AM.

It was a particularly audacious method of operation which is starting to become almost commonplace in this sector, near the city of Consolat, in Saint-Louis, where the train tracks border housing….

The conductor had just enough time to stop the train and to see the robbers open
several containers. In cases like this, the procedure is clear: the agent is supposed to sound the alarm, in order to interrupt traffic, and then to take refuge inside his cabin so as to be sheltered from assault. This time, the conductor was not harmed, but this kind of attack is starting to seriously concern the corporation, as much as the phenomenon seems to be gaining in scope.

According to Joël Naudin, from the Sud-Rail union, the number of attacks is significant: “On average, there are two per month. This has almost become routine. The last one, came at the end of the month of May. We came near to having a catastrophe when the conductor got down to see if the locomotive had been damaged. At that moment, another train brushed past him. There must be a real concerted effort to secure the zone. Every one should do everything possible before a tragedy occurs.” …

…For months, even years, [Daniel Tourlan, the regional head of the CGT union(Confederation Generale du Travaille)] has been familiar with this phenomenon which has been occurring regularly in Saint-Louis. And for him, the SNCF [“Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer”, the French National Railway Company] is not taking account of the situation:

“It’s been going on for years. … There used to be fences that were put in place, but these were destroyed. There, we need manpower. Today, the politics of it is the calculated risk, not prevention. As long as there is not a sufficient number of attacks, they won’t intervene as they should. Not until the problem becomes serious. For now, they are not taking measures in accordance to the problem.

For the union leader, the question of the agents’ security might come up quite quickly in another sector, that of the new line between Aix and Marseille, soon to be in service: “There also, we are rather concerned. In regards to security, if we do not want a replay of the OK Corral, there must be measures taken. The number of officers in the Suge [General Surveillance] is low and out of proportion to the problems the region is facing.”
The report fails to mention if the thieves make use of the famous Canadian phrase, "Hands Up!"
(Well, it was an American who said it... but he said it in Canada...)

Some of Marseille's other crime waves have been covered in previous Covenant Zone posts:

The attacks on bus drivers who insist that riders pay their fares, and

The attacks on grocery store owners who insist that shoppers pay for their food.

I hate sounding glib when I post about the ongoing moral and societal decay in French-speaking Europe. There are real people at the receiving end of this misery, it's not a game. I descend into sarcasm as a defensive reflex, I suspect, because of the implications of it all... my attempt at gallows humor. As a Francophile I take this downward spiral very seriously, more serious evidently than the elites whose nihilistic paralysis is helping to tilt things irrevocably for the worse.

It feels World War I all over again, only this time in urban settings, not in fortresses around Verdun or trenches along the Marne. The people are being sacrificed by those in positions of authority, sacrificed to utopian idolatry. In "the Great War", obstinate French generals refused to see what was clearly in front of their faces, lest they be forced to recognize the imbecility of their plans, and their delusions caused needless misery.

In World War I this resulted in Mutiny. What will the modern, urban, version look like?

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