Two 14-year-old teenagers were killed in brawls between rival gangs in Essonne, Monday 22 and Tuesday 23 February. Sociologist Marwan Mohammed, researcher at the CNRS and specialist in urban youth, looks back on these recurring phenomena.

Monday, “Le Parisien” reported that a note from the Prefecture of Police counted three dead and 280 wounded, in 2020, following clashes between gangs in the Paris area. Is there an increase in these acts?

To have a definitive answer, it would be necessary to be able to have a long-term recording device of these phenomena, in its different dimensions (violence, school dropout, absenteeism), but also to have a homogeneous census for the entire territory. There are also manifestations of these conflicts that are difficult to measure. Only the visible part of the rivalries is known, there are sometimes serious injuries who are not identified as resulting from a gang clash.

The figures given by the Prefecture of Police, obviously, are still three dead and 280 injured too many, but we must also take a step back: in 2020, in Chicago, in the United States (2.7 million inhabitants against 2 , 2 for Paris), there were more than 700 deaths, including 300 minors, and more than 4,000 injured. Most of these are shootings linked to rivalries between gangs.

Inter-gang violence has always existed in large cities, but are social networks changing the way these rivalries are built?

Social networks are the big news: there is a digitalization of conflicts. On the one hand, their birth is now also played out in the digital sphere and can spill over into the public space. Previously, conflicts were born face-to-face, now they can arise virtually.

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The second effect is temporality: the confrontation is now followed in real time by hundreds of people. Third effect of social networks: they create a digital space of reputations. Previously, it was built in the physical space, between college, high school, school bus… All of this still exists, but today the facts and prestige are also commented on, noted, evaluated online.

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The last effect is the fact that the belligerents stage themselves. In Yuriy’s case [un adolescent de 15 ans violemment agressé et laissé pour mort dans le 15e arrondissement de Paris], we saw a first video circulating, showing young people from his neighborhood, who beat up a teenager from Vanves. They film and express themselves in front of the camera, talking not only to him, but to his neighborhood and his friends. We have a form of scriptwriting, not necessarily thought out in advance, but which is there.

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