April 10, 2013

Louvre closed due to "exceptional circumstances"

Paris' Louvre at night (Photo by CR Sezgin)
The Louvre's website pops up a message today:
Due to exceptional circumstances, the Louvre museum is currently closed. We apologize for the inconvenience and will keep you informed when the museum opens again.
The New York Times' Arts Beat blog reported:

PARIS –The Louvre museum was shut on Wednesday after 200 guards and surveillance agents went on strike to protest the growing number of often violent pickpockets who prey on them and tourists. 
“For more than a year, pickpockets have come here every day,” Thierry Choquet, a member of the main union at the Louvre, said. “They threaten guards by telling them that they know where they live.” 
The pickpockets are often minors from Eastern and Central Europe, Mr. Choquet said, who “buy entry tickets, threaten agents and attack tourists.” 
On Wednesday the museum’s management said that it would beef up security forces at the Louvre, which usually attracts between 25,000 and 30,000 visitors a day at this time of year.
BBC News quoted sources as saying that the pickpockets included children.

The Guardian reported that earlier efforts had failed:
The museum said in a statement that pickpocketing was a growing problem despite measures taken last year, including tighter co-operation with the police and temporary bans on people already identified as pickpockets from re-entering the museum. Late last year, the Louvre filed an official complaint to the state prosecutor over visitors falling victim to the thieves.
The Telegraph reported how it's done:
Many of the thieves are children who get into the museum for free and then start asking people for money. 
“Do you speak English?” is their usual opening gambit, and then they surround victims, helping themselves to money and possessions.
And the difficulty in resolving the problem of the 'children of Romanian immigrants (France's Interior Minister)':
“The children are tough and very well organised,” said one member of [Louvre] staff. “They stop at nothing to get what they want, and work in gangs.
“We can only do so much, but arrests are usually impossible because of their young age. If they are kicked out, they return the next day. They are very aggressive towards staff, putting people in danger of attack.”


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