Is France lying about Roma crime rates? @H= By Michael Cosgrove

September 6, 2010

The French Interior minister recently released figures on Roma crime rates which suggested they had rocketed in the past few years. There are no official statistics to support his statement, but there are several to contradict it.

France’s recent crackdown on its Roma population has resulted in their accelerated expulsion by the planeload back to their countries of origin. This has in turn led to international criticism of French policies and even accusations of racism and xenophobia. So it is only normal that the French try to defend themselves, and that’s what Interior minister Brice Hortefeux did a few days ago when he tried to defend government policies by claiming that crime rates and “delinquency of Romanian origin” in Paris had rocketed “by 138% in 2009 and 259% in eighteen months.” He added that “Today, in Paris, the reality is that almost one thief in five is a Romanian” and that “one theft in four by minors is committed by a Romanian minor.”
Now you have to admit that those are some very impressive figures even if you forget that “Romanian” is not a synonym of “Roma.” They are so impressive in fact that if they were true I myself would put every Roma in this country on a plane and personally fly them to Bucharest. But this is just too far-fetched to be true.
The most pernicious aspect of these figures is that there is absolutely no way to verify them. So where did he get them from?
There are no official sources, national statistics, nothing, which can be consulted to verify his statement, which is not unusual in France, a country which is notorious in the West for its reluctance to inform the public on issues which concern it. (There are no statistics on the ethnic make-up of the prison population, for example.)
As Rue89 pointed out, French journalists have been slaving away for days trying to find some official statistics or documents to back Hortefeux’s figures up, but they haven’t been able to find any, even from direct police and government sources such as ministries, judicial police, immigration authorities and other official bodies.
One source sent them to the STIC statistics. These government statistics on recorded crime are so unreliable, unverifiable and manifestly false that they are the laughing stock of the whole of France. But even if they were reliable that would be completely irrelevant, because the STIC database doesn’t have the statistics quoted by Hortefeux either.
Although police figures are hard to come by, there are a few. What do they show? First of all, they show that the police do not note the nationalities of their ‘clients.’ Also, many of those who show up in figures do so because of infractions concerning authorization to be on French territory, which means those crimes cannot be committed by French nationals and thus should not be included in any comparison. Not only that, the statistics show that the percentage of foreigners suspected of breaking the law compared to French nationals had actually gone down by 12.5% in 2009.
So if it were true that Roma crime has gone up by hundreds of points, it must have mechanically gone down dramatically within other immigrant groups. But that isn’t true according to the government itself, seeing as officials never stop quoting figures on the supposed rising crime rates of immigrant populations.
So Hortefeux certainly did not get his figures there.
Available justice system figures don’t support him either. They, unlike police figures, include the nationalities of those condemned before the courts and there are figures available for 2007 and 2008. Those figures contradict everything Hortefeux says. They say that in those two years, the percentage of convicted individuals of Romanian origin went down by 6%, for a total of 4,300. The population of France is 64 million. In other words, the only two available official sources for crime figures relative to the Roma completely contradict what the government is saying. So where did he get those figures?
There is an interesting figure available at the Romanian Interior ministry too. The ministry says that of the hundreds of Roma sent back to Romania by France, not one was on either French or Romanian police records.
M Hortefeux, I’ll ask you this question just one more time. Where did you get your figures? And if you can’t answer that question clearly, unambiguously and in a manner acceptable to all, it means that either at best you should never have mentioned them in the first place, or at worst that you are lying.
Photo: French opposition parties, unions and civil rights groups protest against President Nicolas Sarkozy's tough anti-crime proposals at the Place de la Republique in Paris, September 4, 2010. (Reuters photo)