France to strengthen video surveillance system
PARIS (Reuters) - France will triple its number of video surveillance cameras by 2009 as part of the fight against terrorism and street crime, Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said on Friday.
Alliot-Marie told Le Monde newspaper video surveillance was relatively undeveloped in France.
"The latest attacks in London were prevented thanks to their video surveillance system, (which is) 10 times more developed than ours," she told Le Monde.
An official report put the number of authorized cameras in France at about 340,000, Le Monde said.
Alliot-Marie said the Paris public transport network would expand its surveillance network to 6,500 cameras, while systems operating in provincial cities would be progressively linked to police control rooms.
France stepped up security measures after the 2005 attacks in London's transport system that killed 52 people.
French authorities have said gang violence is a growing problem in Paris, which has seen repeated clashes between rival gangs in recent months.
Alliot-Marie last month announced the creation of a special police unit on youth violence and said information collected by video surveillance should be shared among different services.
French police hope a mini spy-in-the-sky drone the size of a toy glider will help them track rioters and fight crime.
The 1.2-metre (4-foot) long drone, powered by two electric motors and equipped with day- and night-vision cameras, is due to begin full operational testing next year but is already meeting opposition from some local mayors.
"Our suburbs are not Iraq," said Gilbert Roger, Socialist mayor of the eastern Paris suburb of Bondy, adding that the "flying robots" would further tarnish the suburbs' reputation.
"We need more police officers on the ground and not machines," he said in a statement, warning that drones would accentuate the state's disengagement from tough neighborhoods.
The Paris gang clashes have revived memories of weeks of riots in French suburbs in 2005 and violent student protests in Paris last year.
President Nicolas Sarkozy, a law-and-order hardliner, won criticism and praise for his tough handling of the suburban riots in 2005, when he was interior minister.
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