Yesterday we arrived in La Ferte sous Jouarre. It’s a nice town with good mooring pontoons. As we approached the moorings, the owner of one of the other moored boats (we had met him in Meaux) shouted to us ‘there is no water or electricity’.
We moored up anyway and found that the pontoon we had tied up to had its access to the main road barricaded off. There were a total of four boats at the moorings and when we got talking to the owners, they told us that three weeks ago, someone had smashed the water and electricity units on the pontoons. They had been repaired and within a week they had been smashed again. For safety reasons, the local authority had cut off the water and electricity and access to the pontoons. We carry enough water on C’est la Vie, to last six days and our batteries allow us to last three days without shore power so we decided to stay.
We had to move to a more accessible mooring beside two other boats where we felt safer. It such a pity it happened in la Ferte – a town that suffered so much in two World Wars with major battles fought in it. I am sure that all the men who died here to keep France free would take a very dim view of this type of activity.
This is not just a French problem. We have the same issues in Ireland. Shortly before we left someone came along Clontarf Road in Dublin (where we live) and kicked the wing mirror off Nuala’s car. I called the police and when they came to check the damage, they told me that about twenty cars had their wing mirrors damaged on the road the same night. They told me the crime would be recorded but their resigned faces told me that it was unlikely that any one would be caught.
The price from the garage to fix the car was €400. So the vandals had caused at least €8000 worth of damage not to mention the trouble they put twenty people to, getting wing mirrors fixed. The same applies to the French vandals. They wrecked four electricity/ water points which I am sure cost at least €25,000 and not once but twice. I am sure they have put many boaters off visiting the town and have given it a bad reputation.
Why do we tolerate this behaviour in our societies? Well the people who do it are pretty certain they won’t get caught. If they do they will end up in court about two years later and give a sob story to the judge and get a suspended sentence and fine of €50. The police know this and I think have given up trying to solve these types of cases. The local authorities fix things when they get around to it and its makes them look good. So everybody wins, except the public who have to pay and have the inconvenience of having their property damaged. They don’t make a fuss as they know the vandals probably won’t get caught. So that’s why it keeps happening.
So why put up with it- we are paying. So how do we stop the cycle? I think we should all push for a zero tolerance policy on anyone who is caught damaging property (we will only likely catch about 20% so let’s make an example of them). They should be brought immediately to court (a special court to deal on the spot with these type of complaints) – if proved guilty they have to pay the full cost of the damage they have caused (no excuse that they have no money- if they are on government assistance they lose their benefits until the cost is recovered) and they must help to do the repairs. Then they will realise that what they kicked down in 5 minutes ,in actual fact costs € 20,000 and takes 5 days to fix.
If that kind of action was taken I bet all mindless vandalism would stop. For my own part I have resolved that in future if I suffer vandalism, I will make a big fuss and keep following up the authorities to see what action they have taken. Who agrees with me? Anyone with a better solution?