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313 gangs in France, ministry claims, as Guéant proposes crisis cell

Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

There are 313 gangs in France, according to an interior ministry assessment leaked to the press ahead of an announcement by Interior Minister Claude Guéant of a plan to set up a top-level anti-gang coordinating committee.

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Guéant was expected to unveil his proposal for a cell to coordinate the fight against gangs on a visit to Cergy, near Paris, on Friday.

The ministry defines a gang as “a group of variable structure of at least three people, comprising at least a hard core of members who consider themselves or are considered by sometime members as being a gang”.

It would link up the efforts of several ministries, as is already done by already existing committees dedicated to combating cults and drugs, ministry sources say.

The minister pitched the idea to Prime Minister François Fillon on Thursday.

Ahead of the announcement, the right-wing paper Le Figaro published figures compiled by Guéant’s ministry purporting to show that the number of gangs in the country stood at 313 on 1 January 2010, down from 607 in 2010.

The figures were later confirmed to the AFP wire service.

There were 331 violent clashes between gangs in 2011, according to the statistics, and 252 people were injured, compared to 196 in 2010.

Gangs that take control of territory, fight the police or even fight each other are “a fact commonly recognised and observed by the security forces”, according to ministry sources.

There is a heavy concentration, 106, in the greater Paris region and the ministry blames that on the large amount of social housing there.

Right-wing politicians have blamed gangs for some of the riots that have taken place in the banlieues, the deprived areas around France’s major cities much of whose population is of immigrant origin.

President Nicolas Sarkozy made law and order a key campaign theme during his 2007 election campaign and is standing for reelection in April and May.

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