“We managed to dislodge dealers”

“We managed to dislodge dealers”

You have lived in Tonkin in Villeurbanne for more than thirty years. How has the neighborhood evolved?

When I moved here in 1994, drug trafficking did not exist. It was a place with a lot of social diversity and a village spirit. In the same block of buildings, the owners occupied as many apartments as the tenants. It was very lively thanks to the shops: jewelry, butcher, bank, hair salon… At the time, relatives had alerted me to the fact of living in the heart of the neighborhood, next to the Tonkin college, where I teaches French: “You're crazy, we're going to slash your car tires or put mice in your mailbox as soon as you put a zero!” » This never happened. Everyone rubbed shoulders in perfect harmony. Then drug trafficking changed everything. About ten years ago, dealers began to set up shop, first investing in a building a stone's throw from my house, at 4 rue Jacques-Brel. It was not a guy who arrived from Marseille or Paris who launched the movement, but young people from the neighborhood who were socially deprived.

What happened ?

They sat at the entrance to the buildings on camping chairs, blocking the door with crushed cans to facilitate the comings and goings of “customers”. I'm not even talking about the smell of piss in the stairwell. However, it was quiet social housing, I took my children there for birthday parties. Since then, it has emptied of its inhabitants and has become a squat for drug dealers. Tonkin has become impoverished: most businesses have closed their doors. Due to a lack of reaction from the public authorities, trafficking has taken hold to unthinkable levels, with today no less than eight deal points nearby.

What is the genesis of the “Tonkin Pai(x)-sible” collective?

The collective was born in my building four years ago. At the time, the dealers had been ruining our lives for months, trying to take over our building, hiding drugs in false ceilings, and setting up shop in the stairwell to smoke. We used the residents' WhatsApp group. Very useful during confinement to lend yourself flour or an egg, it was even more useful to defend yourself against drug dealers! As soon as a member alerted about intrusions, we mobilized to dislodge them. I even remember a shift between us for two weeks to protect our garage doors, which they tried to cut with a grinder. One sunny weekend in June, several men fought over territory by firing bursts of Kalashnikovs at the bottom of our building! I saw for the first time in my life a man try to kill another (she imitates a pistol shot) . There were no deaths, but a passerby was shot in the knee. It was the straw that broke the camel's back.

What is the intention of the collective?

It started out as a very feminine group with white hair! (Laugh) It is made up of around fifty people. We contact these young people to maintain dialogue and explain to them how much dirt, noise pollution and intrusions into private spaces bother us. We are the only “ordinary” people who talk to them. Every Friday, trash bags and tongs in hand, we collect waste around the deal points. When it's dirty, I take my mistress tone: “You can be a dealer, but you don't have to be a pig! » I think of these grandpas and grandmas who like to sit on the bench in front of their residence for the elderly, which is occupied by traffickers in the evening. They could at least leave the place clean for the elders the next day! If we have succeeded in dislodging certain dealers, we do not claim to be able to stop drug trafficking…

What are they selling?

Lots of cannabis, crack, cocaine and probably heroin. We've already found syringes near a playground.

How are your discussions going?

Outside, we always meet the little hands, never the bosses. They are often young people that I know. With them, we get to talk. I even wish them to get out of traffic, to find meaning in their lives. But lately, there has been a lot of turnover: some come from other neighborhoods or come from illegal immigration networks. With them, communication is less fluid since they don't know us. They criticize us for having attracted the public authorities, who launched an “XXL net space” operation last March.

Have you ever encountered former students selling drugs?

Unfortunately yes. When I first found myself on a deal point, I cried. Then the tears fell less. It's like a routine. In college, I put a lot of effort into helping vulnerable kids, trying to get them on the right path before they fall into drug trafficking, but I'm realistic. No family model helps them stand up straight. The hours of detention to make them work or the connection that I try to establish with the families are not enough. I even found a good student on a deal point! He didn't say hello to me, his gaze fixed on his shoes. He was extremely ill. A great sadness came over me.

A senatorial report, published on May 14, estimates that the government has not measured the extent of the problem by limiting itself to so-called “clean space” operations without hitting “the top of the spectrum”. What do you think ?

At the time, residents noticed the effects of the operation with police vans present non-stop, the deal points temporarily disappeared. But this presence must continue, otherwise it becomes useless. Today, the vans are leaving one by one, once again leaving room for the dealers. We are now waiting for the brigade of twelve police officers promised by Gérald Darmanin (Minister of the Interior, Editor's note) . We also need to raise consumer awareness: we are trying to launch an advertising campaign on public transport serving Tonkin to make them aware of their responsibility. Many come by tram from the chic or student areas of Lyon to obtain drugs. If buyers have been in contact with the dealers before, they can even get off at the Tonkin stop to get supplies and get back on the train without waiting for the next one. All, under video surveillance cameras.

Don't you fear reprisals?

No, so far the dealers are killing each other, and that doesn't make me happy. Last November, three shootings broke out near schools. The children were confined to their classrooms while the drug dealers shot each other in broad daylight. It's terrible! But I don't think any of them would take their Kalashnikov to kill locals. Of course, they know how to be intimidating. I have already been threatened with a mortar shot at my window. And I said, “You’re going to get a bucket of water on your head!” » Drug trafficking thrives on fear. If all the neighbors got involved, the dealers would leave! I hope that our action will encourage other residents to defend their building and their neighborhood.

Do you encounter neighbors who are hostile to your commitment?

This happens sometimes. What is criticized for our approach is the media coverage. “Because of you, we only talk about Tonkin through the prism of drug trafficking,” we are usually told. To which I respond: “We need to stop sweeping dust under the rug!” »

Have you never requested your transfer?

What an idea ! For nothing in the world, I would not want to live in a chic area of ​​Lyon, for example. When I took my children to music school in the 6th arrondissement, I returned to Tonkin as quickly as possible. Despite everything, I love my neighborhood! I want to continue fighting for him.

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