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Pickpocket gangs cause closure of Louvre gallery

Pickpocket gangs cause closure of Louvre gallery

Published: 10 Apr 2013 14:54 GMT+02:00
Updated: 10 Apr 2013 14:54 GMT+02:00

The world famous Louvre art gallery in Paris had to close on Wednesday when employees reportedly staged a walk-out in protest against pickpockets at the museum.

According to a story on France Television the staff went on strike after becoming fed up dealing with the thieves, who were "becoming more numerous and more aggressive".

Museum staff claimed the pickpockets had targeted the employees as well as the million of visitors who visit the gallery each year.

Management at the museum said it had already lodged a complaint with prosecutors in December 2012 and demanded a greater police presence at one of the most visited museums in the world.

Sorting out the problem of the thieves will be one of the first jobs for Jean-Luc Martinez, who was announced as the new head of the museum last week.

According to the museum’s management “200 officers exercised their right to stop work on Wednesday.”

“The services of justice and the police have been mobilised,” said a spokesman, who said “business meetings” will take place to try to find a solution.

Hundreds of Louvre staff gathered outside the Ministry of Culture in Paris, which received a delegation from the museum at midday.

According to Christelle Guyader from the SUD union “are sometimes scared to work because they are confronted with organized gangs of pickpockets who are becoming more and more aggressive.

"They come with minors that get into the museum for free and even if they arrested by police return a few days later," Guyader told AFP.

The pickpockets are believed to be mostly from eastern Europe.

Staff have reported they have been victims of “spittings, insults, threats and physical assaults” and despite lodging several complaints to museum managers “they had not been followed by action”. Directors said they had noted 150 individual complaints in a file passed on to prosecutors in Paris.

“There have always been pickpockets at the Louvre and in tourist locations in Paris, but for the last year and a half the gangs have become increasingly violent and their modus operandi has become more complex. Nothing can stop them,” Sophie Aguirre, a supervisor in the museum said.

The staff appear to have won support from members of the public and businesses in the city.

Via The Local France's Facebook page the Hotel de la Trémoille wrote: "It's a great pity the Musée du Louvre was closed today but we admire the staff for standing up against pickpocketing in such an wonderful Parisian site. We hope the message is delivered and the Museum can again welcome tourists safely through its halls."

The Local/AFP (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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