In the very touristy Saint-Paul district, popular for its bars and restaurants, residents and traders have shared shocking images of their daily lives on social networks: abandoned mattresses, night fights, dozens of syringes in the manholes, shop window business damaged.
Some, like Audrey and Yoann Martin, co-managers of a restaurant located opposite a parking lot known as a drug mecca, are at breaking point: for two years, customers have “fleed”, their insurance has “fired” them ” and they are preparing to close this establishment launched in 2019.
Deputy for security and public tranquility of the ecological municipality, Amine Smihi tempers: “Bordeaux has nothing to do with Stalincrack”, in Paris.
He recognizes that “the transformation” of the Gironde capital, its attractiveness, attracts “problems of big cities”. But he underlines that “it is not new either”, brandishing a copy of the Nouvel Observateur of February 7, 2002 titled: “The truth about insecurity in Bordeaux”.
For the elected official, the context has changed especially with the Covid-19 crisis and the confinements, which have settled precarious public in the deserted city center, where they have been able to find help from associations.
According to him, the difficulties concern “a hundred individuals”, including “around thirty in a state of addiction such that their interaction with the public space is totally impossible”.
Since the rant of the traders of Saint-Paul, camps have been dismantled.
But their representative, Danielle Pendanx, points to the presence in the neighborhood of a Reception and Support Center for the Reduction of Risks for Drug Users (CAARUD). Managed by the La CASE association, it acts, according to her, as a “magnet” for drug addicts, often with dogs.
The president of the association Véronique Latour denies it: “Historically, this is where there are the most drug users”.
“In 2011, when we arrived, there were no shops. Since then, there has been a very extensive gentrification of the neighborhood and that’s what brings this movement of fed up,” adds – she, noting that a growing city (25,000 inhabitants between 2008 and 2019) also attracts “wandering people”.
His establishment, which receives “a hundred people a day” – not all marginalized – to consult a doctor, receive nursing care, wash clothes or take a shower, is faced with a growing demand for sterile equipment to consume crack, like pipe kits.
Head of service at CAARUD Planterose, Saint-Michel district, Pierre Barc speaks of an “explosion” in consumption: “10,000 kits” distributed this year against “2/3,000 five years ago”.
Crack is “based” cocaine, resulting from a chemical transformation using baking soda or – more dangerous – ammonia. The “pebble” obtained, or “cake”, is smoked.
The effect is faster than with cocaine powder, but it is shorter, creating the feeling of withdrawal more quickly and leading to repeated doses, explains Aurélie Lazes-Charmetant, of the Study and Information Committee on drugs and addictions, the association that manages the CAARUD Planterose.
In Bordeaux, she assures, “there is no established network” of crack dealers in open-air markets, as in the north-east of Paris, but “consumers who themselves base themselves in the street”.
Questioned by AFP, the prefecture said it wanted to “work on moving out of the city center of CAARUD managed by La CASE”, “rallying point for marginalized people”.
Véronique Latour, who was “not aware”, is resolutely against: “Do we move a hospital because the residents are bothered by helicopter noise?”.
If these users “cannot inject themselves in the street, nor at home since they do not have any, they need a place to do so”, continues Ms. Latour: “Consuming is a necessity which is imposed on them and not a hobby”.
Like the ecologist municipality, elected in 2020, it defends the creation of a Stop addiction care (HSA), new name for establishments often nicknamed shooting rooms.
Tested in Paris and Strasbourg since 2016, they allow consumption in a secure environment. Lille, which “faces an upsurge” of crack according to its socialist mayor Martine Aubry, also wants to open one.
In Bordeaux, the previous right-wing majority, Alain Juppé era, had developed such a project but “brutally backtracked” in 2018, when “everything was ready: the financing, the device, the place”, underlines Amine Smihi.
“We already have public money, which is sleeping in an account”, confirms Véronique Latour, of La CASE.
Rather than a single “big center”, the town hall is considering “several small decentralized units” as well as a “mobile device”.
“Premature”, replied by mail the prefect Fabienne Buccio.
It is a “political problem”, judge Pierre Barc. “The Ministry of the Interior wants to wage a war on drugs and not go towards support”.
For regulars at the CAARUD Planterose, a consumption room would be a “good idea”.
“Of course I would go, like the majority of drug addicts. It’s better than doing that in the corners and being noticed by people, especially children…”, says a tall, thin man, who judges also “reassuring” to have a medical team on site.
“Those who miss a little could have some advice” in an HSA, abounds a 32-year-old woman, HIV-positive, who has been injecting cocaine since she was 15 years old. And “compared to public toilets and parking lots”, it would be “clean”.