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    'France is Becoming More Cruel': Police Alarmed by Spike in Violence in Country

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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - This summer, France has seen an increase in violent offenses, with stabbing attacks, sexual assaults and deadly brawls occurring across the country on an almost daily basis, the representatives of France's Alliance police trade union told Sputnik on Thursday.

    According to Olivier Hourcau, the Alliance's national secretary, the increase in violence in France this summer reflects a wider trend toward a more and more violent society.

    The statistics say that the number of assaults occasioning actual bodily harm has been increasing in France for the fourth year in a row, growing by 4 percent in 2017 alone.

    "If we look at the statistics covering only July and early August, we will see that the upsurge in violence is evident. There have been incidents exceptional in terms of cruelty. But I believe that this escalation of violence fits into a broader context. France is becoming more and more cruel," Hourcau said.

    Bruno Noel, the Alliance's secretary general in the French department of Nord, even believed that the recent increase in violence had a larger scale than in previous years.

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    Violence Out of Nowhere

    The representatives of the police trade union pointed to the fact that even most violent offenses now can emerge from nowhere.

    "You can look at an individual in an inappropriate moment, which will make him think that he was posed a challenge, and you'll be drawn into a fight, which might result in a death. Today in France you can be killed just because you looked at someone in a wrong way," Hourcau indicated.

    Loic Lecouplier, the Alliance's deputy national secretary, echoed his colleague, saying that fights occurred for no reason at all.

    "A scuffle might emerge from scratch: someone looked at someone else in a wrong way, someone pushed somebody else… Previously, disputes did not go beyond fistfights. Now [people] immediately resort to arms. The violence has become rampant, ruthless," Lecouplier said.

    According to Noel, the cruelest attacks are perpetrated by repeat offenders.

    "They form groups and approach a person, asking him for a light, money or a cigarette and, no matter what the answer is, the case may end up with [the offenders] beating the individual. There is no specific scenario. This resembles rioters during protest actions, who do not stand out in the crowd, when they are being detained one by one. But when they form groups and operate under certain circumstances, they are capable of almost everything. However, those who are particularly violent, usually have a considerable criminal record," Noel said.

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    Alchohol, Drugs, Growing Violence

    The trade union's members mentioned alcohol consumption and drug use as risk factors for violence outbreaks.

    "Alcohol and drugs are a serious problem. A lot of assaults are provoked by their use," Hourcau indicated.

    Noel confirmed that drug and alcohol use had become a routine affair that was no longer surprising.

    "It has become the norm to go somewhere to have fun with a trunk filled with bottles at the weekend. It is clear, taking into account that it results in the lack of control and the absence of self-monitoring, that tragic incidents occur. Some youth gangs, being dead drunk, set off to find someone to start a fight," Noel explained.

    He added that it was not easy to define a typical victim profile, stressing that anyone could become a victim of random violence.

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    Tourists —Vulnerable Category

    Stressing the fact that no one was safe from random assaults, the Alliance's representatives noted that tourists were subject to street attacks quite often.

    "We are witnessing the same phenomenon in the province: gangs are being created, which assault, in particular, tourists. In resort parts of the country's south-west [criminal] networks are being established, which attack and rob tourists and local residents. It is not a distinguishing feature of the province or Paris, it is typical of France, in general," Hourcau indicated.

    Lecouplier, in turn, added that a number of offenses, namely thefts, robberies with violence and burglaries, increased due to the influx of migrants.

    Public Indifference Makes Things Worse

    Noel emphasized that the escalation of violence was compounded by public indifference, with many eyewitnesses of attacks taking no action to help the victims.

    "Everyone cares only for themselves, while assaults' eyewitnesses often demonstrate shocking indifference. Passersby, whose number is much higher than that of the attackers, see what is happening and take no action," Noel indicated.

    A number of assaults in France have recently been perpetrated in public places, in particular, in public transport, with eyewitnesses having taken no attempts to interfere in the attacks.

    In order to avoid being attacked Lecouplier recommends to go out with friends or in small groups and to choose places which are considered to be safe.

    "And what is most important, if you are in danger and there are no police officers in the vicinity, the best choice is to try to avoid a dispute. If they demand your phone and you sense danger, give it to them," Lecouplier advised.

    Possible Ways Out

    Apart from the allocation of additional funds to tackle the upsurge in violence, the three policemen agree that more severe punishment is needed for offenders.

    "The justice should definitely introduce heavier penalties for attacks both on citizens and policemen. The prisons are overcrowded, but it is not the point. It is necessary to make criminals fear the punishment. If they think that since they are minors or have no criminal record they are not at risk, the situation will only get worse," Noel stressed.

    Hourcau, for his part, suggested that policemen should refocus from their routine activities to resolving such a grave problem.

    "The policemen are currently occupied with other things instead of fighting the crime. Should a policeman guard a building? Is it normal that he spends all the working day monitoring surveillance cameras?" Hourcau asked.

    Noel indicated that the police remained extremely concerned since wanton violence could affect anybody at any time.

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