There is a steadily growing sense of insecurity in France. Consequently the problems of rising crime rates, especially offences committed by young people, are often headline news and are a key issue in political debates, especially in the run-up to major elections.
But what is the 'true' position with regard to the number of delinquents and recorded crimes? Lorraine Tournyol du Clos describes the sources of information available, their good and bad points, and lastly the great difficulties we face in trying to answer these questions properly.
The figures vary widely, depending on whether the source is self-confessed law-breaking, surveys of victims of crime, police statistics or data on court verdicts, since each measures something different. Lastly, the author stresses, we do not really know how many delinquents there are, the numbers and nature of the crimes committed, and even less how the trends change over the long term.
It seems likely that crime is on the increase. But we should treat with caution the numbers being bandied about, their treatment in the media and the use made of them for political ends.