The Louvre gallery, the Eiffel Tower, the Musée d’Orsay – three of the most famous landmarks in the French capital, popular among visitors and thieves alike.
After a series of police raids this week tourists will hopefully be able to visit the sites, without fear of having their purses or cameras pilfered. Or at least for a while.
This week, Police in Paris arrested 12 people, whom they believe were part of an organised gang of petty thieves targeting the thousands of tourists who visit the famous attractions each day.
The arrests were made as part of a series of raids on Tuesday, which came at the end of weeks of police investigation, AFP reported.
The suspects were part of a “highly structured” gang, all aged between 21 and 35 who come from Eastern Europe. Most of them were lodged in hotels in the Saint-Denis area, north of Paris.
“After several weeks of investigation, and after collaboration with the authorities in the first arrondissement, we uncovered this team of offenders, who were conducting pickpocketing on a large scale,” said police captain Stephen Gouad.
The thieves' modus operandi, involved posing as tourists themselves in a bid to avert the suspicions of their unsuspecting prey. They would carry around cameras and enter inside the attractions where they would scour for victims.
“The Louvre was their main field,” a police source told AFP who added that the thieves would target mainly Asian tourists, who they believed were carrying large sums of money.
“On a good day they could rake in €2,000 a day,” said Stéphane Gouad.
Cracking down on robberies against tourists has been a priority for the authorities in Paris and the French government in recent months after China asked Paris to do more to protect its citizens in the aftermath of an audacious robbery on a group Chinese tourists.
Exasperated staff at the Louvre gallery staged a walk-out earlier this year to highlight the problems they face on a daily basis trying to deal with “aggressive” pickpockets.
France’s Interior Minister Manuel Valls responded by odering reinforcements onto the streets of Paris in tourist hot spot areas.
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.