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France to train new ‘green gendarmerie’ to fight environmental crime

The new teams will help to fight against issues such as wildfire arson, the interior minister has said. He also announced plans to combat urban and rural joyriding and delinquency 

A photo of two French gendarmerie in the countryside in France

The new teams of gendarmerie will be especially trained to detect environmental crimes such as wildfire arson Pic: NeydtStock / Shutterstock

France is set to have 3,000 ‘green gendarmerie’ trained in detecting environmental crimes, including fire starting and illegal waste, the interior minister has said, and also announced measures against joyriding.

Gérald Darmanin said the plans would be “revolutionary”, in an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche today.

He said: “The objective will be that each brigade will have a team of gendarmerie trained in detecting ecological crimes. It will be revolutionary.”

Wildfires

The teams, known as ‘green gendarmerie (gendarmerie verte)’, will be particularly focused on “improving judicial work”, especially on cases such as the volunteer firefighters who were found to have started wildfires deliberately in recent weeks and months.

Read more: Second volunteer firefighter arrested over fires in south of France 
Read more: Arson suspected in two wildfires in southern France 

Mr Darmanin said: “[This summer] there have been between 80 and 120 fire starts per day in our country and we have so far moved to 26 arrests of suspected arsonists.”

The new teams would “massively strengthen the resources of the [environmental crime-fighting agency] Office central de lutte contre les atteintes à l'environnement (Oclaesp)”, said the minister.

The Oclaesp was created in 2004 and is run by a gendarmerie general. It was recently asked to assist in work on the huge fire in Landiras, Gironde. 

It also works against medicine crime, poor waste management and illegal flytipping, crimes against endangered species, sports doping, physical pollution, food scandals, and bioterrorism.

Joyriding ‘delinquency’

The minister also announced plans to strengthen an ‘appropriate response’ from gendarmerie to urban joyriders and boy racers. He said: “These are neither a ‘nuisance’ nor ‘an artistic expression of youth’.

“They are a serious act of delinquency.” 

The minister said that police would be asked to apply a ‘proportionate response’ to the issue, and warned against police unions calling for police to follow in quad bikes or motorbikes.

He said: “[A chased motorbike] can hit a car and cause a mother and her children to die instantly. I saw it when I was mayor of Tourcoing (Nord).”

The minister also said that there would be new gendarmerie teams to help fight rural delinquency. He said: “Two hundred brigades will be created in six years, because rural delinquency is rising.” 

The first of the new teams is set to be ready by 2023.

In urban areas, including in Lille, Lyon, Montpellier, Perpignan, Nice. and Marseille, there will b the creation of 11 new mobile forces, who will fight against drug trafficking and urban joyriding, Mr Darmanin said.

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France’s wildfires rage on as minister warns of more to come 

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