Paris' Champs-Elysees suffers crime wave
27 November 2007, PARIS - The area around the Champs-Elysees in central Paris has seen an alarming increase in violent crime, according to new figures Monday which appear to confirm the declining reputation of the world's most famous avenue.
27 November 2007
PARIS - The area around the Champs-Elysees in central Paris has seen an alarming increase in violent crime, according to new figures Monday which appear to confirm the declining reputation of the world's most famous avenue.
In its latest annual report, France's National Crime Observatory (OND) says that the number of personal assaults in the eighth arrondissement (district) of the capital, which includes the Champs-Elysees, increased by 32 percent in 2006 to more than 1,500.
The number of cases of violence without theft -- 450 -- was up 93 percent in the arrondissement, while reports of threatening behaviour were up 48.7 percent. The increase was by the far the biggest in the city.
The statistics were released days after a senior police official warned that the Champs-Elysees -- long seen as the epitome of Paris chic -- has become a hub for violent crime, prostitution and racketeering.
"The atmosphere is no longer good-natured like it once was. There are more and more incidents," according to Guy Parent, head of the Paris anti-prostitution brigade, who said the avenue was increasingly the haunt of crowds of suburban youths.
"Many people from the poor out-of-town estates come wanting to party in the nightclubs. They are often under the influence of alcohol and that creates incidents," he said.
The mayor of the eighth arrondissement Francois Lebel told Le Parisien newspaper that the Champs-Elysees was in danger of turning into another Pigalle district -- once chic but now full of sex-shops and a down-market clientele.
"The situation is getting worse and worse. Every year a cinema closes and a new nightclub opens. If a sex-shop wanted to open, I couldn't stop it. The Champs used to have a family atmosphere and be lively up to midnight.
"Now it's lively between midnight and six in the morning thanks to persons of a less reputable nature," he said.
The warnings follow the murder earlier this month of a guest in a fight at a well-known restaurant just off the Champs-Elysees. In August a woman was wounded when a reveller let off a Kalashnikov outside a nearby nightclub on a Sunday morning.
And a week ago the manager of the exclusive Baron nightclub on the Avenue Marceau off the Champs-Elysees was given an 18 month suspended jail term and a fine of 100,000 euros (148,000 dollars) for running a prostitution racket.
According to Parent, the Champs-Elysees is increasingly prey to North African prostitutes known as "les marcheuses" or walkers because in order to avoid France's anti-loitering laws they keep moving when they pick up customers.
"They are very chic and they are after a very wealthy clientele. They are seeking out the Saudis and the Kuwaitis, the ones I call the oilmen," he said.
Residents of the eighth arrondissement complained in Le Figaro newspaper that even the luxury area around the Parc Monceau -- one of the most expensive in the capital -- is increasingly troubled by drug-dealers.
"People are really angry. Every night half a dozen dealers on moto-scooters or in cars hang around the entrances to the park to do their business. Addicts climb over the fence to get their fixes. Fights are regularly breaking out," one resident told the newspaper.
Subject: French news