Cannes regulars are calling on festival organisers and city administrators to enforce far tighter security measures along the Croisette after an unprecendented wave of violence and gang-related petty crime have left many here injured, mugged or fearful of their own safety.

"I swear it has got out of hand this year," said Nikki Parker, head of publicity firm Denmead Marketing, after she was grabbed in her Sun Riviera hotel room by an intruder wearing a stocking over his face. "I do not feel safe here anymore. Something must be done."

Echoing her thoughts was Tivi Magnusson, one of several Danes who have been accosted here outside the Petit Majestic, marring what is turning out to be a banner year for Nordic cinema. Always a raucous hang-out for boisterous drinkers, the bar turned bloody this year after a bottle was smashed over Magnusson's head. "I've been coming here for 29 years but I never thought anything like this would happen to me. All my friends are shocked; I'm just in pain." In another incident that same night, a festival-goer was head-butted by a biker wearing a helmet after there were complaints about the motorbike engine-noise.

Although purse-snatching and hotel break-ins have always been an unfortunate feature at Cannes, the crime wave seems to have worsened as a result of marauding bands of youths said to have come in from Marseilles especially to pray on the unsuspecting.

Hotels are checking more people for market or festival badges, even in the evenings. But this does not appear to have prevented room service scams and others in hotel tricksters. In another incident at the Paris Hotel, a UK tabloid journalist found herself dragged through the lobby during daylight hours to the apparent indifference of those working there.

"There's definitely a rougher crowd out there this year," noted one marketing veteran yesterday. Among the sales companies that have suffered thefts include both United Artists Films and Winchester Films.

Adding to the atmosphere of aggression have been a serious of fist-flying scuffles associated with hot-ticket events. Many have suggested that the mayor's attempt to close down beach parties by midnight thirty has exacerbated the problems of party access. By reducing the time available to get in, more people turn up at one time.

Monday night's after-screening party for Honest, for example, erupted into a spontaneous melee when a surge of (very) late night revellers tried to get in to the beach party. Ensuing clashes between French riot police and gate-crashers left 10 people injured.

The police had to be called in again on at the Cannes Beach when youths climbed over barriers to gain forced entry into the Director's Fortnight screening of Some Voices.

And yesterday morning, there were ugly scenes, crush barriers were forced back and chanting for resignations from a disappointed crowd of people with market badges and correct tickets who could not get into the first (press) screening of Dancer In The Dark. The screening appeared to allow in only VIPs and selected press.

One French witness said "the British were quite philosophical about it, but having queued for half an hour ahead of an 08:30 screening and then not to get in the French were really pissed off." Another, a leading festival programmer said: "Although I'd queued the day before for my tickets, I realised that I simply will not get to see the film here in Cannes."

Among those glad to have taken added precautions was The Film Co, which was told by the festival to increase the security guard body count on its Biggles party from four to sixteen. The party passed off without incident.