France has eased lockdown restrictions and allowed free movement of people without special passes, even if it's a little far away from their homes, starting 11 May, provided people wear face masks when in public.
As the French Prime Minister said, speaking at the National Assembly on 28 April, “we will have to live with the virus. The prospect is not too bright, but this is a fact. We should learn to protect ourselves from it.”
Initially recognized as useless, wearing masks is now recommended by the government and will be mandatory in a number of situations, in particular in public transport and in some stores.
Stanislas Gaudon, spokesman for the Alliance Police Union, shares his views on whether wearing face masks in some public place across France will lead to new problems for law enforcement.
“Massive mask-wearing can complicate the work of law enforcement agencies when they need to identify a suspect in a crime or offense,” Stanislas Gaudon explained.
“Will crime rate increase? It’s hard to say, because usually criminals hide their faces, not wanting to be recognized. This has been proved during recent anti-government protests. Throwing Molotov cocktails at the police, the protesters covered their faces with scarves or masks. In this case, my colleagues launch an investigation.”
According to Stanislas Gaudon, the health of the French is of paramount importance in any case: “Sanitary rules are a priority in this “sanitary war.” “The rules shouldn’t be revised, facilitating the work of law enforcement agencies on the one hand, facilitating the virus spread throughout the country on the other hand.” It’s hard to find a middle ground.
“There is not only visual identification method. You can study phone service providers’ registers, verify data by comparison, study witness testimonies. Moreover, many cities have CCTV cameras; they are not only in the metropolitan area, but also in the provinces. The data obtained allows us to investigate and detain persons who have committed serious crimes.”
Wearing masks is mandatory in certain contexts. Moreover, gradually lifting self-isolation regime implies two important steps: a certificate from the employer (work pass) when traveling in the metropolitan area by public transport at rush hour, as well as a ban on travelling over 100 kilometers away from the place of residence.
According to Stanislas Gaudon, the police will also adapt to new working conditions:
“The rules will change. In particular, law enforcement officials will monitor observing the mask-wearing regime in the places where it is required, for example, in public transport. In the metropolitan area at rush hour, they will check passengers for passes. They will also have to monitor compliance with the travel ban in order to prevent potential COVID-19 carriers from moving from the red zone to the green zone with all the ensuing consequences.”
Stanislas Gaudon was pleased to note a “significant crime rate reduction” during self-isolation period. These positive results are explained, in particular, by the fact that “there were no [potential] victims “and it was more difficult to commit robberies.” In the near future, law enforcement agencies will focus on monitoring how rules for lifting self-isolation are being observed:
“At the moment, we are setting priorities straight. First of all, we’re dealing with obvious violations, everything urgent. I mean domestic violence by the spouse and parent, assaults, and thefts in public places, for example, when criminals tear off jewelry from people.”
According to the police officer, there is a more acute problem than mask-wearing regime. This is an explosive situation in deprived areas. Many of them have seen riots after an unemployed father of the family, riding an unregistered motorcycle without a helmet, crashed into a police car in Villeneuve-la-Garenne on 18 April, which left him seriously injured.
In the days that followed, deprived areas throughout the country saw riots. On 9 May, the Carrefour supermarket in Nanterre was set on fire after monitoring self-isolation regime got out of control.
Stanislas Gaudon considers the situation critical: “During self-isolation lifting, we fear the same as during monitoring compliance with the regime in deprived neighborhoods, where uprisings and street riots aren’t ruled out now. Riots take place almost every weekend, both in the near and far Paris suburbs, as well as in provincial towns.”
The police officer thinks that “this is not residents of these areas that are responsible for this, but the minority striving for chaos.” However, he is sounding the alarm:
“It is quite hard to ensure compliance with the republic’s rules in the areas, whose residents hadn’t treated the police well even before the current sanitary crisis. Some residents of the districts make it clear that this territory is outside the scope of the country’s law and the national police. It’s necessary to put an end to impunity and restore the rule of law, in particular, for the sake of the residents of these neighborhoods, who also can no longer endure the current situation.”
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.