Macron on the campaign trail: tackling drug related crime & urban poverty in Marseille

Seven months ahead of the French presidential election, President Macron is seeking to take the initiative on the questions of law and order to avoid letting the far-right Marine Le Pen or a centre-right candidate like Xavier Bertrand treat the issue as their own.

On a three-day visit to Marseille he will seek to address the plague of drug-related violence in the city that has seen 15 murders so far this year.

The numbers are not new: last year there were 28 deaths; in 2018 there were 23.

What is new is the young age of so many of the victims, many of whom are used as couriers for the gangs.

"In 2010 the first time a 16-year-old was killed it was a thunderclap, but we thought it was a one-off. With the benefit of hindsight we can see it was the start of a trend," one social-worker told Le Monde newspaper last week.

According to the writer and expert on Marseille's poor northern neighbourhoods, Philippe Pujol: "The killings in Marseille are always over sales-points. The big bosses slug it out in Morocco or Spain. Here on the ground the drugs retail has been subcontracted out, and it's teenagers doing the work."

Youngsters can be recruited over the Internet and many come from estates in other French cities.

"It's like a summer job, but they're much more vulnerable than the local lads because they're so isolated," an investigating magistrate told Le Monde.

According to Pujol, many young recruits become indebted to the gang leaders. Some start taking drugs themselves. With police raids getting more frequent, good new sales-points are hard to find.

"Young and in debt, they want to make big sales, so they push out further from their home turf. And that's where the competition comes. They come up against other kids from other gangs, also playing high stakes," he says.

Macron is expected to make announcements on extra police and magistrates, on housing, and on transport and education.

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