Increased crime in Nouméa?
A naked man casing several Nouméa schools and its skatepark, offering to take children for a hamburger at MacDonald’s.
Four dying in a car crash upon their return from a wedding.
Two local businesses burning to the ground in downtown Nouméa after a few people set a trashcan on fire.
A 26-year-old woman attacked by a group of youths (landing her boyfriend in the hospital with a broken shoulder blade and rib), coming out of a nightclub.
The news from just the last few days, here in Nouméa.
Is Nouméa suffering from greater crime, increasing insecurity and more violence?
Yesterday, 100 people gathered together at the American Memorial to protest the violence here. 100 people is far from representative of a capital of 100,000+. As one person said, if the public doesn’t show up and our government officials don’t respond, we’re in trouble. It’s almost as if rising crime and violence is a taboo subject, she said.
It has occurred to me that it is taboo. If you read the newspapers (as I’ve taken to doing to try to understand the local context and politics), you find out that people are literally dying every day in New Caledonia, that they are being attacked, murdered and raped. If you listen to the radio, you hear about regular sexual violence, infanticide and road accidents. If you talk to your banker or your insurer, you hear stories of rampant theft (money, credit cards, computers, TVs) and forced robbery. Of the people I know who have lived here for years, all of them have a story of witnessing car crashes, losing loved ones or narrowly escaping robbery.
And yet, no one seems terribly concerned about it. Yes, they shake their heads and scare you with even more horror stories. But what are we doing? I’ve read that the prison is over-run and conditions there are now inhumane. Some have said that fewer people are being stopped and arrested because the prison situation is so dismal.
So, what in that case, are we doing? Are we investing in prevention, social support and greater equality?
Or is it really not that bad? Is it just that bad news sells and gives people something to talk about? Is this what happens in smaller communities? Is it something we’re are all agreeing not to talk about?
Having lived in Paris for years, I honestly had no idea so much crime was happening around me (for you will tell me that everything I write about happening in Nouméa is happening around the world). Yes, I’d been pick-pocketed and had my phone stolen. But not everyone I knew who had lived there as long as I did had a story of aggression, theft or violence. You could go out on a Friday night and not be worried about getting hit by a drunk driver. Sure there might be a horrible scuffle on the metro in Paris, but depending on where you lived you could live without an alarm or bars on your windows. Here, we lock everything up, put things in the trunk, lock the car, stay off the roads on Friday nights and try not to cringe when we see the front page of the newspaper.
So, tell me, those of you who live or have lived in New Caledonia. Is crime on the rise? Or is it just a feeling I can’t get my head around?
Les Nouvelles calédoniennes – New Caleonia’s local newspaper (in French)