Paris police boosts efforts to protect tourists from pickpockets

PARIS, May 15, 2013 (AFP) - Paris police said on Wednesday they would deploy more officers to protect tourists against pickpockets and launch an awareness campaign to fight fake charity organisations targeting visitors.

The efforts come in the wake of several incidents that have tarnished the image of Paris - the world's most visited city - including the brief closing of the Louvre museum in April by workers protesting increasingly aggressive pickpockets.

The Paris police prefecture said it was increasing the number of officers deployed at key sites including the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, the Champs Elysees shopping strip and the Montmartre district.

It will also begin distributing leaflets in heavily touristed areas, in English and French, warning against a trend that involves young criminals asking visitors to make donations to false charities or to sign false petitions, distracting them from pickpockets.

Among tourists increasingly being targeted are visitors from China, with the Chinese embassy recently reporting an increase in the number of complaints regarding muggings and other thefts.

In March, 23 Chinese visitors were robbed in a restaurant shortly after they landed in Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport. Their passports, plane tickets and cash were all stolen.

Paris's image was dealt another blow this week by violence during a trophy parade to mark football club Paris Saint-Germain's first French League win in 19 years.

The violence on Monday saw unruly PSG fans run riot near the Eiffel Tower, throwing smoke bombs, damaging bars and restaurants and attacking several tourists.