A new government decree went into effect Tuesday, as begging is now outlawed on Paris' famous Champs-Elysees avenue, a result of interior minister Claude Gueant cracking down on "Romanian delinquency." The six-month renewable ban is mainly aimed at minors steered by mafia networks to pick pockets and engage in burglary along the most expensive commercial space in Europe.
The Champs is a mecca for upscale shopping, with stores like Cartier, Louis Vuitton, and Hugo Boss, so it's a natural honeypot for young punks to buzz around. And gypsies have gravitated there in large numbers. A July police study revealed that Romanian delinquency had increased by more than seventy-two percent, and Gueant said that ten percent of all people appearing in court in Paris were now Romanian.
So, begging along the famous stretch, where blood-doped cyclists sprint to victory in the final stage of the Tour de France, is now punishable by a thirty-eight euro fine (about $52 U.S.). Panhandlers nabbed must also produce their identity papers.
The Socialist mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, called the decree a publicity stunt, and his party referred to it as "scapegoat politics," seeing it as a bid by the government, with Nicolas Sarkozy on the ropes, to win far-right National-Front votes in next year's presidential elections. It's funny how Paris' own mayor is annoyed that his streets are being cleaned up. (You would never see politics being put ahead of national welfare in the U.S., for example. Partisan politics pushing our country to the verge of bankruptcy? It'd never happen.)