This sidewalk angle “is very practical, there are not too many neighbors, it takes ten seconds” to illegally unload garbage and rubble with a dump truck, explains Ahmed Jaoui, who heads this unit of nine municipal police officers created in December 2021.
Even if this “scourge” is not specific to the second city of France, “it had become untenable”, says Yannick Ohanessian, assistant to the security and the municipal police.
“In recent years, we have seen the accumulation of bulky items, rubble, tires, all building materials emerge at every street corner, at every end of available sidewalk, in every little nook and cranny of the city,” explains elected to AFP.
A major problem in a city spanning 240 km2, more than twice the area of Paris.
The municipal police concentrate their action on professionals, mostly craftsmen or unscrupulous building contractors who, instead of going to the recycling center, dump their construction rubble on the public highway. Sometimes even as far as the Calanques National Park.
– Sectors –
Some “have organized themselves into sectors using subcontracting with extremely precarious people who, to earn a small black ticket, are ready to take all the risks”, underlines Mr. Ohanessian.
People who “slash the city”, judge Mr. Jaoui. “I can’t throw a paper on the ground, I don’t know how you can throw rubble!” He laments.
Of the 16 districts of this city of 860,000 inhabitants, six are particularly “in the eye of the sights of the municipal police”.
Rue Gustave Eiffel, for example, not far from the Vélodrome stadium, is a popular site for illegal dumping. With its U-shape, it partly escapes the surveillance of the camera posted at its entrance.
“It’s a two-lane and we were traveling on a single lane at one time” because of the waste that was dumped there, recalls Cédric Vaganay, one of the police officers of the brigade, pointing to the roadway. “You can imagine, we come back from very very far.”
The rubbish has since been replaced on the sidewalk with large concrete blocks which are intended to be a deterrent and which, coupled with the brigade’s frequent patrols, have paid off.
“We monitor these sites, we spend our time going back there, warning, reporting,” insists Mr. Jaoui.
The cleaning of these deposits by the Aix-Marseille-Provence Metropolis has a cost: “1.7 million euros for Marseille and the 18 surrounding municipalities, the second city of France accounting for three quarters of this sum”, according to Jean -Yves Sayag, metropolitan councilor in charge of the fight against illegal dumping.
If flagrante delicto remains very rare, the brigade relies on some 1,600 video surveillance cameras whose data is analyzed 24 hours a day from an urban supervision center (CSU). Which is coupled to the municipal police radio PC to facilitate interventions.
“We keep statistics up to date on all the places, the number of waste by sector, the times on which they will prefer to throw”, notes Serge Gonzales, who deciphers the images.
“Already in normal times, the impact of man on the environment is considerable, so if in addition we add wild deposits, it’s an ecological disaster”, he laments.
“We don’t really have the competence of the investigator” but we “try to chew up the work as much as possible for the national police” and justice: in particular by cross-checking the CCTV images with the waste to identify the registration of the vans polluters.
Mr. Ohanessian plans to eventually double the staff of the environmental brigade and set up mobile cameras this summer.
The Marseille public prosecutor’s office has created, since March 2019, a Local Delinquency Treatment Group (GLTD) dedicated to the fight against illegal dumping which works hand in hand with the brigade.
“Municipal police officers have the possibility fairly quickly of establishing a report” and the city of Marseille can “proceed with a formal notice to the polluter”, explains Mr. Ohanessian.
“Today, there is no impunity in terms of waste,” confirms François-Xavier Temple, coordinator of GLTD, to AFP.
From March 2019 to December 2021, 240 procedures were sent to him, “compared to a few” before the creation of the GLTD, he recalls. About half of the cases resulted in quick fines, which can go up to 1,500 euros.
“It takes time for it to become visible to our fellow citizens, recognizes Mr. Ohanessian, but it is bearing fruit”.