ROME • Four Chinese policemen will patrol the streets of Rome and Milan alongside their Italian counterparts for the next two weeks in an experiment designed to help protect wealthy visitors from China during a peak tourism period.
Four units, each with one Chinese officer and one Italian officer, are being posted to tourist hot spots such as the ancient Colosseum in Rome or Milan's Gothic cathedral.
Their job is to help deter pickpockets and counsel Chinese tourists who run into difficulties.
The trial is the first for China in Europe, ambassador to Italy, Mr Li Ruiyu, said on Monday, according to Italy's Interior Ministry.
The four Chinese officers, who speak Italian and English, have had training from their Italian counterparts in Beijing.
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This service was planned with Chinese tourists in mind, and if it works well, we may consider other forms of collaboration. ''
ITALIAN INTERIOR MINISTER ANGELINO ALFANO, who said Italian policemen would soon visit China for the same kind of patrols.
When on the beat in Rome or Milan, they wear the same uniforms that they wear at home, so that their compatriots can recognise them easily.
More than three million Chinese tourists visit Italy every year, according to Mr Liao Jinrong, director-general of the international cooperation department at China's Ministry of Public Security.
And with Italy being a tourist attraction for millions more from other countries worldwide, the Chinese police will be paving the way for more such instances of international police cooperation.
"This service was planned with Chinese tourists in mind, and if it works well, we may consider other forms of collaboration, given the presence of the Chinese community in our country," said Interior Minister Angelino Alfano.
The officers began their duties yesterday and will be on patrol until May 13. They hope to "increase the sense of security of Chinese tourists", said Italian police chief Alessandro Pansa.
Mr Liao who is also the deputy head of Interpol's national central bureau in Beijing, praised the initiative as "the result of a very positive collaboration between Chinese and Italian police forces".
The programme, he explained, stemmed from a bilateral agreement reached in 2014.
Thanks to the joint patrols, the two countries would also be able to further deepen knowledge of their legal systems, Mr Liao said.
Mr Gennaro Capoluongo, head of the international police cooperation service in Italy, said the Italian police have already carried out similar initiatives with other countries including the United States and Spain, especially during peak tourism periods.
The officers will share information with Italian police and help Chinese tourists if they need to contact the local authorities and diplomats.
The next two weeks are expected to be the peak period in Italy for shopping-happy Chinese visitors, known for spending their cash on Italian goods.
"If the experiment is successful, we will expand it to other cities in Italy," said Mr Alfano, adding that Italian policemen would soon be heading to Beijing and Shanghai to carry out the same sort of patrols there.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA, REUTERS