Saturday, October 31, 2015

Fez ~ Putting Crime in Perspective

Since yesterday's attack on three German tourists in Fez, visitors are naturally concerned about crime in the city. While an attack on anyone is despicable, an attack on tourists hits at the livelihood of the entire community

Three German tourists, walking in the Fez Medina, were attacked by two youths wielding knives, and suffered cuts. Word on the street has it that the young men were high on drugs. The quick response of local Moroccans saw the perpetrators caught on the spot, and handed over to police.

As a local shopkeeper said, "An attack on a tourist is an attack on all of us. They are guests in our city". It is particularly true in regard to German tourists as, due to some great promotion, there has been an upsurge in tourists from Germany.

The reality is that, despite this recent deplorable incident, Moroccan cities (perhaps with the exception of Casablanca) remain safe places for locals and tourists. The number of knife crimes is lower that cities of comparable size in Europe, and Australasia, and almost totally free of gun crimes in comparison with the United States.

It is unfortunate for the tourist industry in Morocco that even a relatively minor incident is almost always drawn into the ongoing narrative about the dangers of Islamist violence and security threats.

This is not to deny that crime exists, but rather to put it into perspective.

Police authorities still have work to do

In the case of petty crime, police in Fez have recently increased their efforts and are quick to point out that between September 15 and October 5, local authorities arrested 2,664 criminals. However, as this latest incident shows, police authorities still have work to do.

Morocco World News commented on the need for more assistance from the state. "Fez inhabitants have for long complained about the successive Moroccan governments’ lack of political will to reinstate the city to its erstwhile glory and their total focus on other cities, such as Tangier, Marrakech, Agadir, Tetouan, Casablanca and Rabat".

Morocco is a country known for its hospitality and where the safety of foreign tourists is a priority for the government. While these kinds of violent assaults are definitely regrettable, they are, thankfully, extremely rare. As a visiting English woman told The View From Fez, 'It is sad this happened, but it is the kind of thing that happens in London every day".

Figures from the UK released recently and reported in The Mirror show the north-east of the country to be the nation's knife crime capital with hundreds are being caught carrying blades every week.

New Home Office statistics show more than 16,000 cautions or sentences were handed out for knife crimes between April 2014 and March this year - around 45 crimes a day.

In London itself, knife crime is up by at least 18%, after years of falling, and 10 youngsters have been stabbed to death in the city in the past nine months.

As far as security incidents go, Morocco has an enviable reputation for busting Islamist cells before they can cause problems. An international risk assessment body actually lists Morocco as a safer destination than France. (See story here.)

Last summer, Morocco launched "Hadar", a new security initiative to counter security threats facing the Kingdom. The focus was on most of the Morocco’s major cities and tourist destinations.

In the UK, The Times has praised Morocco's security measures, describing Morocco as a "safe haven" and commending the Moroccan authorities and their vigilance in keeping the Morocco safe and secure from the threats of Daesh, the so-called “Islamic State”. It is estimated that 500,000 British citizens visited Morocco each year.

Security in Morocco keeps the Kingdom safe for tourists

“Morocco, a tourist destination for Europeans, remained immune against the convulsions experienced by other countries in the region,” The Times said and added that intense efforts by the Moroccan security services have recently dismantled terrorist cells recruited by the so-called “Islamic State”.

The American government travel warning website lists problems in Libya, Mali, Syria, the Ukraine and other hotspots, but makes no mention of Morocco as a country where tourists are more at risk than they are in any other place.

Common sense dictates that travellers should always be alert, but this applies just as much to Sydney, New York, London or Paris, as it is does to Marrakech or Fez.

See also: Morocco's Crime Rate Drops 9%

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