New squad to make Parisians behave

People gathering in front of the Elysee Montmartre music hall in Paris.
People gathering in front of the Elysee Montmartre music hall in Paris.PHOTO: AFP

'Incivility agents' to hand out warnings or fines for uncouth behaviour in French capital

PARIS • A uniformed "incivility brigade" in Paris, made up of 1,800 officers, has been set up to crack down on bad behaviour by locals and foreigners alike.

It is a massive increase in the French capital's campaign against uncouth conduct such as dropping cigarette butts and other litter or urinating on the street.

The new officers will all be armed with batons and tear gas, with the power to issue fines of up to €68 (S$100) for misdemeanours.

FINES MORE EFFECTIVE

Mere prevention is not sufficient. So after a certain amount of times, you have to resort to handing out fines.

MR EMMANUEL GREGOIRE, deputy mayor in charge of public services.

The patrols will be able to call in rapid reaction support in the form of 320 mobile officers, on duty seven days a week. London's Guardian newspaper said they are expected to be especially busy at weekends, restoring calm between residents and noisy revellers.

The Daily Telegraph said the agents can also fine people who set up illicit stalls on the street or let their dogs defecate without clearing up the mess, and cafes that extend their terraces without authorisation.

The city says it has no choice but to set the "incivility brigade" on the track of antisocial behaviour because previous campaigns did not change the dirty habits of Parisians.

"Mere prevention is not sufficient," Mr Emmanuel Gregoire, deputy mayor in charge of public services, told BFM TV. "So after a certain amount of times, you have to resort to handing out fines."

French news website The Local said the brigade has replaced the smaller Prevention and Protection Direction, and will recruit officers from city services such as parks and gardens and the cleanliness division.

"The safety of people and their possessions is the work of the national police. The municipal agents of the new brigade will be tasked with tracking down and punishing all the incivilities that spoil life for Parisians," deputy mayor Colombe Brossel told The Guardian at a preview of the plan.He said the force will cost Paris €10 million a year.

Yet The Guardian said there was little sign of the new force at Parisian landmarks on what was supposed to be its first day in action on Monday. It said that there were no officers at Place de la Republique despite plenty of cigarette butts on the pavement. Its checks found no officers at Place de la Bastille, where roads were dotted with dog dirt as usual, or on the litter-strewn Grands Boulevards.

While France has an impressive range of gendarmes and crowd control and riot forces, as well as the national police for demonstrations and protests, city dwellers have long complained of an absence of the equivalent of the British bobby on the beat on Paris streets, said The Guardian.

According to the Telegraph, Mr Philippe Goujon, deputy mayor of the 15th arrondissement, said that what Paris really needed was a stronger presence of armed municipal police rather than incivility agents.

Last year, city agents issued 52,000 verbal warnings to residents, half for blocking public highways and pavements. Each year, city employees collect 350 tonnes of cigarette butts from footpaths and roads. Since fines were introduced in October last year for dropping cigarette butts, 2,000 smokers have been fined €68 each.

Until 2004, The Guardian said, Paris also employed "Motocrottes" - motorised pooper-scooters to pick up dog dirt. These were abandoned after it was calculated that they collected only 20 per cent of the 350 tonnes of canine faeces on the streets, yet cost €4.5 million a year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2016, with the headline 'New squad to make Parisians behave'. Print Edition | Subscribe