PARIS — Neighborhoods in northeast Paris have struggled for years with the scourge of crack cocaine and its use in public. The Summer season Olympics, kicking off a yr from Wednesday, are providing an impetus to deal with the issue.
But regardless of a surge in arrests and new guarantees of more durable safety across the 2024 Paris Video games, some residents query whether or not the newfound focus is simply pushing customers elsewhere as a substitute of treating medical and psychological well being issues, a scarcity of housing and jobs and different deeper ills on the root of the crack disaster.
Residents within the 18th and Nineteenth arrondissements, or districts, of the French capital have lengthy complained in regards to the open-air crack use of their neighborhoods that stands in sharp distinction to the postcard-perfect vacationer areas of Paris farther south.
Small teams of individuals could possibly be seen utilizing illicit medication on Sunday on the Porte de la Chapelle metro station and a close-by tram cease positioned throughout the road from a brand new multi-purpose area that’s slated to host badminton and rhythmic gymnastics throughout the 2024 Olympics. Comparable scenes play out alongside native quays and public parks.
Police cleared out a big encampment of drug customers final yr at Forceval Sq., simply exterior an enormous park that hosts the Paris Philharmonic and different cultural areas. Since then, police have made an all-out effort to forestall extra from gathering, deploying as much as 600 officers a day within the northeastern a part of the town alone.
Paris police chief Laurent Nuñez promised after taking his job in 2022 to eradicate crack from the streets earlier than the Olympics. On Thursday, declared the efforts a hit.
Police have arrested 255 folks for promoting crack cocaine in Paris up to now this yr, Nuñez stated, in comparison with 285 in all of 2022. Paris Prosecutor Laure Beccuau stated a mean of two folks a day have been dropped at justice on expenses associated each to the consumption and promoting of crack this yr.
Whereas native residents welcome the eye to the issue, some say the variety of customers hasn’t essentially diminished, however as a substitute been dispersed.
“If the chief of police congratulates himself immediately, it’s as a result of there have been no new camps,” stated Frédéric Francelle, the spokesperson of Collectif19, an affiliation of Nineteenth-arrondissement residents calling for an finish to drug use within the streets. “However there are nonetheless locations the place consumption is completed within the open.”
Francelle stated that whereas the town’s present focus seems to be safety, drug customers want medical and social assist.
“We doubt that they’re actually making an attempt to deal with them by the point the Olympics begin,” Francelle stated. “They’ll simply stress them to go some place else. They are going to attempt to transfer them to the provinces or the suburbs.”
Final month, a remedy heart throughout the road from the brand new Olympic area was moved just a few blocks away. It’s run by two group associations, Gaïa-Paris and Aurore.
Employees on the heart say the variety of guests jumped 30% after the Forceval Sq. web site was cleared however has dropped once more in current weeks, to round 150 folks per day.
Native authorities have requested the associations to rent extra folks, open earlier and shut later, in response to Gaïa-Paris deputy director Victor Deprez.
“The thought is to broaden our capacities,” Deprez stated. “In a approach, their request is that these persons are not seen within the streets throughout the day.”
Efforts are also underway to extend the variety of hospital beds for crack customers within the Paris area, up from the 39 at 5 websites presently to 50 by September, stated Amélie Verdier, chief of the Paris area state well being company. She couldn’t present an estimate of the variety of crack customers in Paris immediately, although previous estimates bumped into a number of thousand.
Police chief Nunez stated the legislation enforcement presence across the new area and different locations within the metropolis will likely be elevated “by 5 or 10 instances” throughout the Olympics.
The sector is amongst only some venues being constructed from scratch for the Paris Olympics, all in underprivileged, multi-ethnic neighborhoods to present the areas an financial increase. The amenities may also be used on the Paralympics earlier than being handed over to native golf equipment and colleges.
“The Olympics are a possibility to ask ourselves questions in regards to the individuals who stay on the street,” Jamel Lazic, who oversees drug consumption rooms at Gaïa-Paris which might be supposed the cut back the hurt to addicts and put together them for remedy. “Perhaps it will likely be a possibility to attempt to take care of the issue and to open up large-scale amenities that may accommodate these folks and have a greater technique. Why not?”
Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.
Extra AP protection of the Paris Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games