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French crime reports sharply down after virus lockdown

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French crime reports sharply down after virus lockdown
Police officers check motorists near the Arc de Triomphe, at the western end of the Champs-Élysées … [+] AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
Statistics released on Monday showed a sharp drop in reports of most categories of crime in France in March, the month that saw strict coronavirus lockdown introduced.

The Interior Ministry’s statistical service said it would be “extremely complex” to interpret the statistics, noting that the lockdown made it much harder for victims to report offences.

The figures showed reports of beatings and assaults causing injury were down 33 per cent on February.

Various categories of theft from persons as well as burglaries were down between 43 and 51 per cent, but murders were unchanged.

The service noted that “certain forms of crime cannot be carried out in the context of a lockdown, while others become more common.”

Since the lockdown only came into effect on March 17, it would be necessary to wait for April’s statistics to see its full effect, the service said.

With authorities warning of scams relating to the Covid-19 pandemic, Paris police meanwhile, said that they had shut down four fraudulent websites that purported to sell face masks and alcohol-based sanitizing gel.

And amid widespread concern that the lockdown may increase the risk of domestic violence and make it harder for victims to get help, Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa announced the opening of a helpline for potential abusers.

READ ALSO: Thousands sign French petition for chloroquine in virus fight

“Protect your family from violence: Get yourself assistance,” Schiappa wrote on Twitter.

Calls seeking the intervention of gendarmes and Paris police in domestic violence rose more than 30 per cent week-on-week after the lockdown came into force, according to Interior Minister Christophe Castaner in a television interview in March.

Schiappa last week told newspaper France-Ouest that despite that, a hotline for victims of domestic abuse was getting only a sixth of the usual volume of calls.

“There is therefore certainly more domestic violence but it is harder to raise the alert,” she warned. Authorities have also set up a new number for victims to seek help by text message.

The hotline for potential abusers was to be staffed by professionals with expertise on domestic violence and contributory factors such as alcohol and drugs, Schiappa told the newspaper.

“There is no shame in calling,” she said. “On the contrary, you’re being responsible by getting assistance and protecting your family from violence.”

DPA/NAN

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