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Eiffel Tower shut in protest of increased pickpocketing

Paris’ famous Eiffel Tower was closed most of the day Friday as workers protested a rise in aggressive pickpockets around the infamous landmark.

The tower, which attracts thousands of visitors each day, has become a target area for pickpockets against tourists.

The walkout came a day after Paris authorities announced that crime in Paris against tourists had dropped due to reinforced police presence and video surveillance.

As hundreds of tourists lined up beneath the tower, the landmark remained closed as staff were concerned about petty crime around the site.

According to the company that manages the site, the tower remained closed while management and staff held security meetings. The tower, which is normally open every day of the year except for strikes and bomb threats, eventually reopened later in the afternoon.

Tower employee Denis Vavassori of the CGT union said the workers want a permanent police presence.

“It is a growing problem. There were always pickpockets at the Eiffel Tower but now we are really facing an organized group,” he told The Associated Press.

Police officers patrolled the area Friday on bikes, on foot and in cars.

“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,” said Brazilian tourist Francisco Madeira from Sao Paulo, who visited the site before the tower reopened. “There should be more organization and police.”

On Thursday, Paris authorities said that violent theft was down in the city by 25 percent and that pick pocketing was down by 23 percent already this year.

According to Prosecutor Francois Molins, who visited the Champs-Elysees tourist district Thursday to show how seriously police are taking crime against visitors, city authorities have also disbanded several major theft networks.

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