Montpellier / CRS reinforcements: “We want to saturate the public space with blues”

160 CRS arrived as reinforcements at Hérault. (©CN/Metropolitan)

On 21 August, Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin announced the reinforcement of 160 CRS in Hérault to ensure daily security missions. Arrived last week, they will primarily be inserted into Montpellier and Béziers. A presence that does not go unnoticed. Monday evening, the prefect Hérault Hugues Moutouhthe mayor of Montpellier Michaël Delafosse, the department director of the National Police Yannick Blouin and the prosecutor of the Republic of Montpellier Fabrice Belargent went to take the pulse of the “navy blues” and the population.

“We’re more about the First World War than the Blitzkrieg”

In the past few days, the mood has changed in Montpellier city centre. The CRS vans parked in front of the Tourist Office, Halles Castellane or the Prefecture do not fail to question passers-by. As at the yellow vests’ Saturday demonstrations, the “navy blue” are present in numbers. But this time, every day for very different missions. “The minister said it, they are not there to annoy the French people, but to annoy the criminals, to arrest them and refer them” specifies Hugues Moutouh, who will lead the broadcast until the end of the year, mainly in Montpellier and Béziers, 160 CRS from other departments.

The units were deployed to Plan Cabanes on Monday.
The units were deployed to Plan Cabanes on Monday. (©CN/Metropolitan)

The system created that night at Plan Cabanes illustrates this very desire. For several years, the various measures and operations have produced occasional results but lack long-term effectiveness. Recent videos posted on social networks of a fight over the argument of a cigarette outlet in ambush, where a machete was brandished, are proof of this. Therefore, the workforce will be distributed day and night in several places in the city by favoring foot patrols and in numbers. “The goal is to occupy the field. We want to saturate the public space with blues,” emphasizes Hérault’s prefect. And it’s not about being limited to the city center. “We’re going where we’re going. We know the cartography of crime very well. We know where to go and when to hurt the offenders as much as possible,” he points out.

Especially since the prefect does not hide his face about the fight against drugs. “Those who promise miracle solutions are charlatans. It is a war of attrition. We are more about the First World War than the Blitzkrieg. It is an obsession of land to win 100m and then 100m again”. With 250 dismantling of deal points since January in Montpellier, Hugues Moutouh will continue this “war” with these new employees.

“They’re there to stop people who want to do shit”

In a city where certain problems have lingered over time and are regularly affected by important news stories, Michaël Delafosse does not hide his satisfaction with the arrival of these police officers: “For us, this is very good news. As mayor, I would like salute the choice of the Minister of the Interior. The presence of the public authority is appreciated for the observance of the rules and the fight against uncertainty. It is a presence which reassures and which also makes it possible to fight against the feeling of insecurity in addition to our strengths”.

160 extra CRS until the end of the year in Hérault.
160 extra CRS until the end of the year in Hérault. (©CN/Metropolitan)

From Plan Cabanes to Place de la Comédie to Esplanade Charles de Gaulle via the Babotte tower and a passage in the tram, the testimonies collected confirm the primary effectiveness of the deployment of the CRS. Apart from a few exceptions that raise eyebrows or point out the anxiety-inducing nature of the show of force, traders, residents and passers-by notice the change and the reassuring climate, especially the women they meet. “We don’t want the situation to worsen,” emphasizes Hugues Moutouh. In the viewfinder: city rodeos, sale and consumption of drugs, cigarette trade, but also street harassment…

“They are there to prevent people who want to do shit. When night falls, there are people who are not reassured because they encounter unsavory people, even if they do not attack them,” sums up Yannick Blouin. The National Police’s department director points out in this connection “the perfect complementarity of daily security”. The local forces will indeed be redeployed in other sectors. “The goal is to mix the territory and saturate the public space with “blues”” adds the prefect of Hérault.

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The judiciary should follow suit

“There are many more ‘navy blues’ on the street, and it is very clear that with the National Police and the Municipal Police, this means more arrests. There will be an overload on the legal level”, warns Yannick Blouin, “It is up to me to put the means to streamline and avoid waiting. If we can simplify the procedures, we will do it, except with regard to the prosecution’s criminal policy, there we will be unmanageable ”.

For his part, state attorney Fabrice Belargent attests: “We will take over at the legal level”. A local crime treatment group will first be established in the Gambetta district, as has already been done in the past to speed up priority procedures. “160 civil servants can drown the institution, that is not the goal. The goal is to work usefully to ensure that the criminal justice continuum is fluid,” he emphasizes.

Huues Moutouh, Yannick Blouin, Michaël Delafosse and Fabrice Belargent face CRS who are present as reinforcements in Montpellier.
Huues Moutouh, Yannick Blouin, Michaël Delafosse and Fabrice Belargent face CRS who are present as reinforcements in Montpellier. (©CN/Metropolitan)

Ideally, these reinforcements on the ground would also require more judges, more investigating police officers and more places in remand prisons. Three sectors are already in tension. “The idea is to use the funds we have as best as possible to make the whole thing more flexible. Especially since not everything has to be handled by incarceration”, explains Fabrice Belargent, “The idea is not to see the glass half empty or half full, but to take advantage of this opportunity to use the public security that exists to work on overt crime but also the ecosystem , that favors it”. There is also a long-term job.

The deployment of 160 CRS is planned on a trial basis until the end of the year. “The ultimate goal is a very significant shift in crime and reduce this feeling of insecurity” sums up Yannick Blouin. Definitely for four months. But afterwards?

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