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Eiffel Tower shuts down as staff strike over pickpockets

The Eiffel Tower in Paris closed to the public on Friday because staff are increasingly worried about pickpockets. They say thieves regularly harass and insult workers and tourists.

Workers at the 126-year-old Paris landmark said in a statement they had chosen to down tools because of an "increase in pickpockets around the Eiffel Tower and several threats and assaults."

The pickpockets "form a gang of 4/5 people. Sometimes there can be around 30" at the monument, one of the striking workers told the AFP news agency. He also said that sometimes they "fight among themselves."

The company that operates the Eiffel Tower said it was working with police to take measures "guaranteeing the security of staff and public."

Frankreich Paris Eiffelturm geschlossen

Visitors were down on their luck on Friday

The strike comes a day after police figures showed that violent theft across Paris was down 25 percent and pickpocketing was down 23 percent in the first four months of 2015, compared to the year before. In recent months, city authorities have also broken up several major theft networks, according to Prosecutor Francois Molins.

In 2013, workers at the Louvre also walked off the job, complaining of a rising problem of pickpockets haunting the museum's vast galleries. Staff also said they were being harassed and spat at.

Paris had 22 million visitors in 2014 according to the city's own figures. It is one of the world's top tourist destinations, making it a mecca for tricksters and pickpockets.

ng/msh (AFP, AP)

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