French police and young offenders and victims, 2004


Gendarmerie National Headquarters
6 April 2004

Subject: youth and crime – the National Gendarmerie’s preventive action

The gendarmerie is a specific force set up to ensure public safety, to maintain order and to enforce the law. These are its main missions.

For all that, for 15 years, the institution has been developing specific measures in the field of prevention of juvenile delinquency. Drug addiction, citizenship, violence, discrimination and the environment constitute some of the main problems that young people encounter on a daily basis. In fact, it’s a matter of intervening in aid of the sensitive and most exposed members of the public as perpetrators or victims.

Prevention of juvenile delinquency, for the gendarmerie, is organised through particular safety devices (I), but also as part of partnership and contractual safety (II).

I.    GENDARMERIE AND PREVENTION OF JUVENILE DELINQUENCY

This is carried out either by structures with non-specialised vocation, or by specific personnel or structures.

11. Structures with non-specialised vocation

111. Territorial units

The non-commissioned officers of the territorial units constitute the first level of intervention. Their initial and continuous training, their knowledge of people and places acquired through surveillance duties, allows them to play a leading role and to detect the young people in trouble.

This daily action of proximity policing is aided by the “gendarmerie – state education correspondent” (as a rule, the commander of the post) or the “gendarmerie – school security correspondent”, who, in certain units, ensures continual relations with the school headteacher.

112. Motorcycle units

In the field of road safety, the gendarmes, along with those responsible for road accident prevention, participate in the implementation of training sites for driving.

The intervention for the benefit of young people is made concrete at each step of the evolution of their personality. The gendarmes have frequent contacts with elementary, primary and secondary schools. They adapt their messages of prevention according to the subject and the age of the young people who make up the target group.
12. Specific personnel or structures

121. Anti-Drugs Relay Trainers (FRAD)

In 1990, the gendarmerie set up the first Anti-Drugs Relay Trainers (FRAD). Although their original vocation was to train their colleagues in the field of drug addiction, they were quickly requested by schools. There are currently 582 FRADs in France. They raise awareness of the danger of drugs, for the benefit of school teenagers.
122. Relay Trainers for Environment and Ecology (FREE)

Relay Trainers for Environment and Ecology (FREE) were introduced in 1993. 450 trainers, on top of their qualification in the field of criminal investigation, intervene during conferences in schools and secondary schools. Instilling in young people respect for the environment and making them responsible for it become a full part of their preventive and educational mission.

123. Youth referents and youth correspondents

Placed in French territorial divisions (larger than a canton but smaller than a department), they follow the evolution of the juvenile delinquency in their district.

124. Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Brigades

To fight the increase of urban violence, in 1997 the gendarmerie established juvenile delinquency prevention brigades (BPDJ) in priority departments. These units intervene essentially in sensitive suburban areas. With a minimum of six non-commissioned officers, two of whom are high ranking, a female member of staff and a FRAD, they work to retie the social link between police and young people in the suburbs.

There are 40 units in France and their four main missions can be summarised as:
– prevention (presence in difficult areas, information in schools or in organisations, meeting young people and their families, reminding people of regulations);
– information (knowledge of social environment, risk estimation, authorities’ information) ;
– accompanying intervention (adapting safety response to the local needs) ;
– promoting partnership action (participation in interdepartmental and contractual devices).

These units develop particular juvenile prevention programmes in line with local priorities. Theses programmes are written on good practice forms and put on line on the gendarmerie’s intranet site.

Among significant experimental practices, we can note:

  • “Listening Gendarmerie points”:

Gendarmes of BPDJ, in contact with other personnel of territorial units and with the authorisation of the headteacher, operate periodically a basic service in schools and during students’ free hours.  The young people can meet the gendarmes and talk about their problems alone or in small groups. This device allows a relationship of trust to develop between the young people and the security forces. This type of initiative also makes the gendarmes aware of emerging problems, especially in the field of family violence, sexual violence or racketeering.

  • Simulation of a penal trial:

Each year, young people aged between 11 and 13 participate in a simulation of a penal trial.

The main target of this experimentation is:

–         to explain penal politics to the young people with some concrete examples;
–         to observe the process of a penal trial in real affairs concerning car thefts or car theft bids with several perpetrators, violation and profanation of graves, threats of destruction with a false bomb etc.;
–         to help the young people to be aware of the responsibility and the consequences of their behaviour when they are about to commit a crime;
–         to dissuade them from committing offences by providing better information about penal sanctions.

  • The implication of the French Gendarmerie in early prevention – “Charlie and Oscar’s travels”:

One BPDJ has created, in partnership with national education, an educational game for young people aged between five and six years old. The target is to prevent attacks on property and people and to make young people aware of respect for themselves and others. This project is also aimed at children who cannot read. It helps them turn to a competent adult when they face a difficulty. Secondary school pupils are involved with the development of the educational tool. They can actively help youngsters where prevention is concerned. Finally, this game constitutes a communication tool between the pupils, adolescents and gendarmes.
Other prevention projects are developed with the aim of preventing drug addiction, bullying in schools, sexual violence, racketeering, violence in sport, road insecurity and internet dangers. Others still contribute to developing citizenship and respect for the environment.

  • Participation in citizenship trainign and relatives’ training periods

These training periods are aimed at first-time young offenders involved in minor offences (insult, petty damages etc.). They constitute an alternative to legal proceedings to help young people assume responsibility for their actions and understand what they incur in terms of punishment. Several BPDJs intervene not only for the young people but also for their parents in the framework of relatives’ training periods. Still at the experimental level, these training periods work with a large partnership and aim to make parents responsible when their children are flagged as absentees from school. The target is to remind parents of their rights and duties and to inform them about punishment.

In 2003, 465,501 people were concerned by an intervention of BPDJs in the field of prevention.

 

II.    PREVENTION TOWARDS PARTNERSHIP AND CONTRACTUAL DEVICES

The gendarmerie’s preventive action is aimed at young people for a large part. But it can be revealed by an increased participation in different contractual devices.

21. Gendarmes and young people

Gendarmes intervene within particular structures specific to the national education or to the urban policy where crime prevention is dealt with. Action towards the minors is led at two levels, that of the young people but also that of their parents.

211. The education committees for health and citizenship (CESC)

These committees associate all the staff of schools, the pupils, the parents and the partners of state education. Their objective is to allow better prevention of teenager’s hazardous behaviours (drug addiction, alcohol, tobacco, violence, suicide etc.). Beyond these aspects, the CESC’s ambition is to develop responsible and tolerant behaviour among citizens. Set up on 1 July 1998, this CESC exists in one primary school and one secondary school. The objective is to generalise them. Gendarmes regularly intervene in these committees. They bring their experiences, inform young people about various dangers and deviances which threaten them while inciting them to respect the rules.

212. Local educational contracts (CEL)

These contracts develop particular educational notions about environment and health where the help brought by gendarmes can be sought. The FREEs and the FRADs, along with the BPDJs, not forgetting the  “gendarmerie – “state education correspondents” or “gendarmerie – school security correspondents”, are brought in to participate actively in the partnership established within the framework of CEL.

214. Prevention during holidays

Since 1982, crime prevention structures have been established which gather the various actors in charge of security issues. After 1981 and Vénissieux’s incidents the “summer operations of prevention” (OPE) started with the objective of keeping young people busy. These structures evolved gradually towards citizenship education.

In 1995, these operations took the name “City, life, holidays”. This programme has four goals, namely the prevention of crime and incivil behaviour during the holidays, the revitalisation of districts in crisis, the long-term integration of young people on the fringes of society, and social solidarity. The young people concerned (about 800,000 minors) are between 11 and 18 years old.

Various ministries participate in these operations: the ministry responsible for the city, the Ministry of Employment and Solidarity, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Sport, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Development, Transport and Housing, the Ministry for the Arts and the Ministry of Defence.

In 2003, 10,033 young people benefited from the involvement of national gendarmes in the framework of these ministerial devices.

215. Plans to Welcome Young People into Municipalities Popular with Tourists (PAJECOT)

To fight seasonal migrations and influxes of tourists to holiday destinations, plans to welcome young people into municipalities popular with tourists (PAJECOT) were established. This process began with a safety evaluation of potential sites to welcome young people. This evaluation, developed at a local level, is implemented by representatives of the prefecture, the public prosecutor, the mayor’s council, municipal agents, the gendarmerie and the police forces. At the end, a local team is appointed to lead actions on the ground, notably by playing a role of mediation between young people, security forces, people working in the tourist industry and tourists themselves. An observatory panel, set up by the Local Council for Security and Prevention (CLSPD) and made up of elected members of the mayor’s council, people responsible for security, people working in the tourist industry and the educational team, meets regularly to settle potential problems.

22. Partnership and safety
221. Local contracts for security

The procedure of the local contracts for security (CLS), which represents an additional step in the consideration of the phenomena of insecurity and notably those connected with juvenile delinquency, was adopted in 1997. The suppressive aspect is, of course, not sidelined. The CLS bases on a diagnosis of difficulties met on a determined territory. It sets up a particularly wide partnership and associates representatives of state services, all the mayor council, associations, various social and professional categories, having to know about security problems. It tries hard to make the population participate in its own security. At the end of the diagnosis, priorities are made clear and result in an action plan with operational action indexes. The CLS provides a means of considering juvenile delinquency with a new sharpness thanks to the methodology used. The CLS has vocation to become the thematic contract for a wider contract: the city contract (CDV), which, besides the aspect of crime prevention, is interested in the urban, economic and social aspects in the wider perspective to contain all the daily life problems of the cities inhabitants.

222. Local Council for Security and Prevention (CLSPD)

Since 17 July 2002, new organisations have been set up, called Local Councils for Security and Prevention (CLSPD). They are presided by the mayor. These organisations constitute a new stage in the contractualisation of the security, after the Municipal Committees for Crime Prevention (CCPD). They are made up of three sections (1. local representatives, 2. section or department head, 3. members resulted from social society designated by the president of the Local Council for Security and Prevention). These organisations take account of acquired experience. They want to reinforce security and operational way of action. They constitute the support of local contracts for security and provide a way for  mayors to be more effectively informed about security problems. Juvenile delinquency constitutes the first main axle of work in the framework of theses devices.