11.12.2012 0

Provence & Côte d'Azur: For Azurean police and gendarmes, Christmas means higher risks of armed robbery

Christmas crack-down on theft

Alongside festive markets, family gatherings and Santa's sleigh, Christmas on the Côte d'Azur also means a higher risk of robbery. The annual 'anti-hold up' plan has been running since 19th November, with the aim of cracking down on Christmas crime. Authorities hope that police patrols and video surveillance will act as a preventative solution.

Jewellery shops on the Côte d'Azur face an especially high risk of theft over Christmas

After Thierry Unik, a jeweller in Cannes la Bocca, was killed in a robbery gone wrong on 26th November 2011, the interior ministry realised that the festive season starts early for armed burglars. As a result, this year's 'anti-hold up' mission will be implemented on the Côte d'Azur from 19th November until 6th January.

As a hub for luxury tourism, the Riviera always attracts jewellery thieves and bank robbers. But this Christmas, the risk is even higher. "The price of gold has risen, we are in financial difficulty, delinquance persists - we have all the ingredients for a highly tense Christmas!" said colonel Gael Marchand, head of the A.M. gendarmerie, in a report by Nice Matin.

Colonel Marchand revealed that armed theft is no longer restricted to large-scale heists. "Armed robberies where inexperienced youngsters steal for 60 euros-worth of goods are often the most dangerous. These can affect all businesses."

Authorities say that thieves are now targeting grocery shops, newsagencies, service stations and countless other low-security stores.

Despite a general lull in armed robbery during 2012, the month of November produced alarming figures. The incidence of armed robbery in police zones reached a total of nine in November 2012 - more than double the figure for the same month last year. The crime rates also climbed in gendarme zones, with 19 attacks taking place this November compared to 14 during the same period in 2011.

The most recent burglary was conducted in La compagnie d l'or, a jewellery shop in Vallauris, on 1st December. A masked trio broke into the shop armed with handguns and tear gas canisters. "Certainly, some of the weapons are fakes. But we are never safe during a robbery gone wrong," explained the divisional commissioner and head of the judicial police force Philippe Frizon. Local shop owners have been threatened with Kalachnikov guns, shotguns and even machine guns during 2012.

Increased numbers of police and gendarmes will be on patrol in commercial areas and ski resorts during the festive season. "All the services have been mobilised," confirmed the regional director of public security, Marcel Authier. "We are trying to be present at the most high-risk times, like at the opening and closing of shops."

The crack down will also include the installation of extra video surveillance cameras in commercial streets.

Isabelle Younane

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