Neuchâtel: These citizens who want to do justice themselves

Anonymous young people believe it is necessary to replace the police in the face of the increase in petty crime in the streets of the city. During an interview, they explain their approach, while politicians are worried.

Abdoulaye Penda Ndiaye, Pauline Rumpf

After a peak of theft in July, arrests have visibly reduced thefts in the past three weeks, indicates the Neuchâtel gendarmerie.


The appointment was made, through an intermediary, not far from the castle of Neuchâtel. It was with a Sioux caution, Covid-19 masks hiding part of their faces and dark glasses, that Seb * and Alex *, two men in their thirties, approached me before inviting me to we sit on a bench not far from there: a discreet place without passage, which offers a breathtaking view of the lake. “This is where we used to come at night with our girlfriends when we were teenagers,” they laugh as if to make the atmosphere less busy.

“The insecurity we experience today in Neuchâtel is unacceptable. We cannot tolerate that our parents are afraid of being attacked when they do their shopping, that the elderly are robbed and manhandled, that schoolchildren are being racked, ”says Seb. To put an end to this spiral of crime, Seb, Alex and other young people of the city decided to organize themselves to change the fear of camp.

More than 180 people arrested

Neuchâtel, like Geneva, has been experiencing new criminality in recent months. It is mainly young people from North Africa who engage in snatching, sometimes with violence, according to the cantonal police. She created a task force and identified 184 distinct people but often without ID and claiming to be minors. The work of justice therefore becomes complicated, and dismissals prevented. However, according to the gendarmerie cited by “ArcInfo”, after a peak of theft in July and a series of arrests, thefts have declined significantly for about three weeks.

“Two weeks ago, we followed up on a few groups of people from the Maghreb. In the street, they had the gaze of the hunter who seeks his prey. We gave them a first warning by telling them that we had spotted them and that they had to stop, ”says Seb. But according to Alex, the speech was much more frontal: “You get out of here or we take you down. We gave them a few slaps but they didn’t make a fuss and obeyed. It was towards Place Pury. ”

A second tough meeting would have taken place the next day. “They threatened us with cutters but ended up fleeing,” continues Alex. “They are lawless and rob honest citizens. We won’t let them do it anymore, ”Seb defends. According to him, during the past fortnight, there would have been at least five frictions between the “angry young people” and the suspected thugs.

“Among us there are Swiss and foreigners, people on the right and on the left. There are all sensibilities. It is the love of our city that brings us together. ” Seb and Alex say they are not in favor of mob justice but believe that “when family, friends and fellow citizens are threatened, we must react. Since the policies that should be moving are not doing it, let’s go. We received support from the population. ”

A law of the jungle that is “cold in the back”

Politicians from both left and right regret the approach of these “angry young people”. “It chills me that people substitute themselves without legitimacy for institutions and sacrifice the rule of law, blows Jonathan Gretillat, socialist deputy and lawyer. The 184 identifications announced are proof that the police are doing their job. ” The PLR ​​Nicolas Ruedin filed an arrest to clarify the origin of this criminality, and the means available to the police and the judiciary. Understanding the fed up and fear of Neuchâtel residents, both rather invite them to report cases to provide the file of suspected criminals.

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