Thanks A Lot, Pickpockets — Eiffel Tower Closed As Staff Demand Police Curb Violent Thieves
Gangs of pickpockets ruined everyone’s day Friday when staff, fed up with their increasingly aggressive tactics, went on strike and closed the Eiffel Tower.
The iconic tourist attraction opened back up by the afternoon after a meeting between staff and management that will hopefully result in increased security measures, the Associated Press reported.
“It is a growing problem. There were always pickpockets at the Eiffel Tower but now we are really facing an organized group,” said employee Denis Vavassori.
He and his fellow workers want a permanent police presence at the site.
That’s because the pickpocket gangs — about four to five strong — have gotten more daring, more violent, and more virulent than ever. According to BBC News, they mingle with visitors, helping themselves to the contents of their pockets. They usually target the Chinese, who are rumored to carry lots of cash.
This “game of cat and mouse” even has the criminals using disguises and surging past the barriers to climb along with excited, oblivious sightseers, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Staff have even said that threats and physical violence have spiked recently. On Friday, they staunchly declared “enough is enough,” leaving travelers mingling, puzzled, and disappointed. One of them, Brazilian Francisco Madeira, agreed that the thieves are an issue.
“Unfortunately there are here people who assault and try to steal. So we do feel less free, and lose the opportunity to visit this beautiful monument. There should be more organization and police.”
Hopefully, that’s what will result: A closed Eiffel Tower is a strong message, just like a closed Louvre was in 2013 over pickpocketing — right in museum’s storied galleries.
Parisian officials were quick to point out that since last year, violent theft is down 25 percent and pickpocketing another 23 percent in the first four months of this year. Authorities have also dismantled a handful of serious theft networks, and on Friday, Prosecutor Francois Molins visited to show that the city is serious about protecting the swarms of tourists who descend on Paris every year.
As the site closed, and then opened back up again, police patrolled the area in any way they could — on foot, by bike and by car, to continue that message.
At the end of the day, the issue is image, one official said: No one is going to want to visit a famous, beautiful landmark if they’re guaranteed to have all their precious valuables stolen.
“This is an image issue. The Eiffel Tower represents France and Europe around the world.”
[Photo Courtesy Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images]