Criminal gangs in Marseille, the second-largest French city after Paris, are now settling scores with their rivals using the same methods used by police to track criminals, as the town descends into what the city's chief prosecutor Brice Robin called "an Everest of murderous frenzy."
According to French radio station RTL, drug gangs in the southern city are now using GPS trackers to track down their rivals before eliminating them, as violence in the city spikes. Police sources in the Mediterranean port city told RTL that several cars belonging to recent victims had GPS tracking devices on them, quite likely placed by their killers.
Delseny gave the example of a double homicide on November 9, in which two people riding in a BMW were gunned down as their car exited a tunnel near the Vieux-Port harbor. According to Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin, the killing was part of a turf war between rival drug gangs.
Several companies in France sell these GPS tracking devices, which are more of less accurate and discreet, depending on the model. Basic models retail for around 200 to 500 euros ($230 to $570), and can be purchased online. Many of the trackers are waterproof and can be easily affixed to a vehicle since they are magnetized.
According to one retailer's website, no law in France "bans the sale, possession or use of GPS trackers." However, the website notes, "the use [of tracking devices] without the knowledge of the individual [who is being tracked] is forbidden, and is punishable by a fine or a prison sentence, whether in a professional context or a family situation."
Transportation groups often rely on GPS tracking devices to keep track of their drivers. Individuals sometimes affix them to their cars to help track their vehicle if stolen. In Marseille, killers or accomplices may place them under vehicles belonging to enemies, track them, and spring into action when they are in a convenient location for a hit.
Marseille made news again over the weekend for its gang violence problem, after four people were killed and three others were injured in two separate incidents.
Around 10pm on Saturday, two or three men armed with automatic weapons showed up outside a grocery store in the Bassens projects, in the north of the city. Three individuals aged 20 to 30 who had gathered at the store to watch a live broadcast of the Barcelona versus Real Madrid soccer game were killed in the shooting. One of the victims was not involved in drugs trafficking, and appears to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
On Monday, authorities found a fourth victim in the Paternelle housing projects, also to the north of the city. The victim, a 50-year-old man, died from multiple gunshot wounds to the chest. Speaking at a press conference Monday, Robin said that the victim, who was in the neighborhood to buy drugs with his boss, was sentenced in 2001 to 17 years in prison for murder. Robin said the killing could be a reprisal for that murder.
The prosecutor added that, "22 cases of score-settling or attempted [score-settling]" could be linked back to the longstanding dispute between the Remadnia family and the Tir and Berrebouh families.
According to police chief Eric Arella, two other gangs — the Ahamada family gang, also known as the "Blacks," and the Bengler family, who call themselves the "Gypsies" — are responsible for 18 killings over the past few years.
The year has got off to a bloody start in Marseille. Since the start of 2016, 11 people have died from gunshot wounds, versus 19 in the whole of 2015.
Follow Pierre Longeray on Twitter: @PLongeray
Photo of Marseille via Martin Fisch/Flickr.