How Reuters measures the impact of French police fines

By Layli Foroudi

(Reuters) – Analysis based on a Reuters report that French police penalize people at a higher rate in areas with the highest immigrant populations based on a look at some police fine data and the number of police fines. number of immigrants and their children. French law severely limits the collection of data about race or ethnicity.

For its country analysis, Reuters used ministerial-level immigrant population data from France’s official statistics agency. This data is considered immigrant for any foreign-born person who holds a foreign nationality even if they have already been naturalized. Reuters compared this data with the number of pandemic-related fines issued by the Interior Department in each department between mid-March and mid-May 2020.

In the five areas with the highest immigrant density – 19% of the population or more – police issued nearly 26 fines per 1,000 people during the COVID-19 lockdown from March to May 2020. That rate is 54% higher than elsewhere, where police fines nearly 17 people per 1,000.

Reuters submitted a freedom of information request for national data on non-COVID-related fines. The responsible administrative body accepted the request in August, but the Interior Ministry did not provide information and declined to say why. Reuters has asked the Paris Administrative Court to force the Interior Ministry to comply with the data disclosure order.

For Paris, Reuters looked at figures from government think tank France Strategie, which used 2017 census data to calculate the county-level percentage of children and adults aged 25 to 54 with non-European emigrant origin. France Strategie’s analysis counts children in immigrant households. For the older group, it measures people born in a non-European country and without French citizenship, even after naturalizing. Reuters compared those numbers with the number of pandemic-related fines at the county level between 2020 and 2021 that it obtained through a freedom of information request. (Country data has been made public.)

That shows that the Paris police tend to fine people at a higher rate in the five districts with the highest percentage of non-European residents. In those counties, residents of African-European descent make up at least 26% of the population under the age of 18 and 16% of the adult population, according to France Strategie data. The police issued 58 fines per 1,000 inhabitants in those counties. Across 15 other counties, the rate is close to 42 fines per 1000 inhabitants.

There are notable anomalies: Paris’s 8th arrondissement, home to the famous Champs Elysees shopping boulevard, has the highest fine rates despite its relatively small minority population.

Patrick Simon, who focuses on demographics and discrimination at France’s Institute for Demographic Research, reviewed Reuters’ methodology. He said the higher concentration of COVID-related fines in areas with more immigrant populations could be explained by a variety of factors. Ethnic profiling is one possibility, he said. Others include greater police activity in minority areas. Another reason is that urban areas have smaller homes that give young people more reasons to spend time outdoors.


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