The Slatest

Eiffel Tower Staff Stage Walkout Over Pickpocket Threat

A police vehicle outside the Eiffel Tower on May 18.

Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty

The Eiffel Tower is closed Friday because its staffers are upset about pickpocket gangs. From AFP:

Workers at the 126-year-old iron lattice tower – a glittering symbol of Paris – said in a statement they had chosen to down tools due to an “increase in pickpockets around the Eiffel Tower and several threats and assaults.”

The Louvre was closed in 2013 when staff staged a similar pickpocket-related walkout. Paris, AFP says, is “a mecca for tricksters and pickpockets”; as Slate’s Joe Keohane wrote in 2011, the practice of pickpocketing has largely died out in the United States, but continues to thrive across the Atlantic (excerpt edited slightly for clarity):

In Europe, professionals from countries like Bulgaria and Romania, each with storied traditions of pickpocketing, are able to travel more freely since their acceptance into the European Union in 2007, developing their organizations and plying their trade in tourist hot spots like Barcelona, Rome, and Prague. “The good thieves in Europe are generally 22 to 35,” says Bob Arno, a criminologist and consultant who travels the world posing as a victim to stay atop the latest pickpocketing techniques and works with law enforcement agencies to help them battle the crime. “In America they are dying off, or they had been apprehended so many times that it’s easier for law enforcement to track them and catch them.”

Keohane’s sources suggest that, in the United States, pickpocketing networks—in which older “Fagins” teach the art of the steal to apprentices—have been suppressed by increased sentences and prioritized law enforcement surveillance of danger areas. As indicated in the quote above, though, younger criminals in Europe are still keen on the practice. (One thing American criminals are better at than French ones? Killing people. Even after years of decline, the U.S.’s murder rate is still about three times as high as France’s.)