French police on duty at Budapest's Sziget festival
Foreign police such as the French, Dutch and British were at the Budapest's Sziget music festival to help visitors who may encounter any problems in a foreign land.18 August 2008
BUDAPEST - "Yes, yes, we're French police, we're here to help," two officers in navy blue uniforms with "Police National" badges tell a group of puzzled French revellers at Budapest's Sziget music festival.
Christophe Gaboor and Dominique Perigord are a different kind of visitor at this festival, which has become one of the biggest events on the European summer music circuit, with over 600 concerts on 30 stages over five days.
A total 400,000 people from all around Europe are expected for this year's edition, which began Tuesday on Budapest's Obuda island, and some 30,000 visitors have pitched their tents for an extended stay.
So the two French officers have come with four British and Dutch counterparts to lend a hand to 45 Hungarian colleagues and about a thousand private security officers.
In 2007, some 11,000 French visitors attended the festival, the largest foreign community after the local Hungarians, and this year they are back in force.
Patrolling with their Hungarian colleagues, and an interpreter, the French officers explain to their compatriots how to report thefts - about 30 have already been reported since the festival began - and apply for new documents.
"Some thieves even enter tents at night, so use the lockers: they're free,"
Gaboor, who usually works in the western French town of Rennes, tells festival-goers.
"Otherwise, you'll be spending two hours at the police station, two hours at the embassy and during that time, you're not at the concert."
For Quentin, 20, the advice came too late: his money and papers were stolen during a concert.
"I was surprised to see them (the French officers) here but it's a good thing."
"The rest of my trip is ruined however," he adds, as he fills in forms at the festival's temporary French police station - located at the island's rowing club - alongside other unfortunate visitors from Belgium and Switzerland.
The collaboration between Hungarian and foreign police runs smoothly.
"We're here to help, we don't encroach on our Hungarian colleagues' territory, regarding drugs for example," says Gaboor.
"But I feel we're having to intervene a little too often," he adds.
"People think nothing will happen to them, that it's not in the festival's spirit," notes Perigord, a retired female police officer.
"In three days, we've now had as many thefts as in a whole week last year."
The British officers meanwhile are enjoying a more relaxed time.
"It's more laid back here than in Glastonbury," notes Sergeant Dave Kay from Bristol police, whose unit is in charge of safety at the famous British festival.
"We are basically here for the lads and the lassies who are leaving Britain for the first time on their own and who are sometimes naive."
[AFP / Expatica]
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