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Mediapart Thu 27 Oct 2016 27/10/2016 Morning edition

Time to scrap France's anti-crime squads?

January 17, 2013 | By Louise Fessard

France's police anti-crime squads were set up to help combat street crime. But have they themselves become part of the problem? Driven by a target-setting culture, coming into contact with large-scale drug trafficking, co-opting their own members and subject to only limited management oversight, they seem almost programmed to crash out of control. Even before the emergence of a recent anti-crime squad corruption scandal in Marseille involving drugs, the positive impact of these police units in France's run-down estates was far from clear. Louise Fessard reports.

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During the 1981 presidential election François Mitterrand promised to get rid of the police units known as the brigades spéciales de nuit (BSN) or special night squads. At the time these units were accused of having committed a number of extremely serious blunders. But thirty years later the night squads' successors, the brigades anti-criminalité (BAC) or anti-crime squads, who specialise in dealing with run-down crime-ridden housing estates, are still around.