French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday unveiled a 1.5 1.5 billion plan to help Marcel deal with crime and deprivation, as concerns over the southern city are on the agenda ahead of next year’s elections.
Macron’s aides said most of the money would be spent on improving transportation in France’s second-largest city, as well as investing in culture.
The president has already outlined other measures, including increasing the number of police and surveillance cameras in crime-hit areas.
The crime rate in Marseille is lower than in the recent past, but the increase in deadly shootings has taken the city’s long-standing social issues above the political agenda.
Macron is expected to run again in next April’s presidential election, campaigning on a platform of law and order, his main rival, the far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
During his three-day visit to the city, Macron called the drug network a “parasite” and said authorities would now “harass” the smugglers.
But Marcel has seen many great projects in the past with little effect, and some locals were skeptical.
“We’re seeing you today, but we’ll never see you again, so we’re asking you to do something for Marseille’s housing estates,” said Ben Collector, 32.
– ‘Peace is a right’ –
Although the southern port city is known for its magnificent Mediterranean layout and charming charm, some neighborhoods are notorious for their narrow streets and deserted housing estates.
Its northern districts are some of France’s most deprived urban areas and serve as centers of the drug trade.
Police say 12 people have been killed in the past two months in a war on drugs.
Macron said 500 additional surveillance cameras would be installed in high-risk neighborhoods, 200 additional police would be deployed next year, and the temporary deployment of two anti-riot police forces would be extended indefinitely.
“It is a right to live in peace, including for women, men and families living in these neighborhoods,” he said.
Macron said the city police would also get a new headquarters, promising more police co-operation at the EU level in search of leaders of drug networks.
Describing Marseille as “a global city”, Macron said it has faced many challenges, from climate change and migration to poverty.
He said it was now the “duty of the nation” to help, and that improving conditions in the 900,000 cities would be “good for the whole country”.
While the president focused on crime, his aides later gave a more comprehensive message, emphasizing that most of the money would be spent on transport and culture.
He added that separate funding would be provided to help renovate 174 dilapidated schools in the city and promised huge investments to improve quality housing.
burs-jh / jxb / bp