Wed, Oct 02, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Crime-weary Marseille calls for a Batman

The plea for a superhero’s help comes after politicians suggestions that the French army should tackle drug gangs who are creating an atmosphere of rampant lawlessness in the port city and masking a cultural revival

By Kim Willsher  /  The Observer

“We’ve had enough of Marseille being compared to Kabul or Damascus. This kind of talk is exaggerated. Rather than employ military methods, we would be better off having permanent police on the ground,” Reverdy said. “We need firm acts, not just firm words.”

Marseille has undergone a renaissance as part of its designation as Europe’s culture capital, with a £552 million (US$896.6 million) program that has seen refurbished docks, new and renovated museums and public buildings, and a busy arts program.

However, it is the city’s crime woes that have grabbed the national headlines and added grist to the far-right Front National (FN) mill. The FN has profited from squabbling between the nationally ruling Socialists and the opposition Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party, which controls Marseille city hall, and their failure to end the violence, gaining support in the runup to next year’s municipal elections.

FN leader Marine Le Pen told supporters in the city this month: “Marseille is not the exception — it’s the shape of things to come. The gangrene of crime is spreading through France.”

The deleterious atmosphere was exacerbated on Friday last week when the regional Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur authority’s accounts department released a scathing report on the running of Marseille. It criticized the city’s mounting debt — currently at £1.5 billion and expected to rise by £86 million next year — and the working hours of public employees, found to be below the national average.

Jaussaud said that, apart from trying to address the crime problem and the unfair stigmatization of Marseille, the Batman campaign aimed to wrest back a sense of local pride.

“We have this wonderful culture, we have dynamic businesses, we have magnificent public buildings, but all anyone wants to talk about is crime,” he said. “This is the paradox of Marseille.”

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top