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France tries to ease youth violence

France will set up an emergency response team to try to prevent tensions between police and youths in troubled areas from descending into violence, the interior minister said Monday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

France will set up an emergency response team to try to prevent tensions between police and youths in troubled areas from descending into violence, the interior minister said Monday.

Brice Hortefeux announced the new "conciliation team" after meeting with about 20 youth groups in the wake of clashes between restive youths and police outside Paris in August.

France has long struggled to soothe tensions between police and angry adolescents in poor, largely immigrant neighborhoods. Hortefeux scheduled the meeting after violence erupted east of Paris following the Aug. 9 death of an 18-year-old pizza deliverer who was fleeing police on his motorcycle.

The response team, to be created in September, will bring together a government official, a psychologist and "independent" observers when incidents appear set to inflame tensions between youths and police, Hortefeux said.

Its goal will be to "defuse situations that are susceptible to flare up," he said. Other ministry panels will try to improve relations between police and youths in troubled areas on a regular basis.

The pizza deliverer died in the town of Bagnolet after losing control of his motorcycle and hitting a metal barrier; he died on way to the hospital, police said.

Dozens of youths smashed windows of a school and a store, torched dozens of vehicles, and clashed with police and firefighters during at least two nights of unrest in the wake of the teen's death.

The scenario — the death of a youth with police directly or indirectly involved — mirrors other incidents that have triggered unrest. Tensions between young people and police have long simmered in housing projects in France's suburbs, feeding on poverty, unemployment and anger over discrimination against minorities.

The suburbs erupted in 2005 in riots, largely by young Arab and black men of immigrant backgrounds, after two teens were electrocuted in a power substation while hiding from police. The riots spread nationwide.