The head of the Paris police department said that crime had fallen significantly around the Eiffel Tower and other tourist hotspots ahead of the Olympics later this year.

Laurent Nunez told AFP that the deployment of extra police had helped reduce incidents of robbery and assault around the Eiffel Tower where the alleged rape of two foreign tourists caused a public outcry last year.

"We've had excellent results in this area as well as other tourist zones in Paris," he told AFP at the foot of the Eiffel Tower on Friday, saying that several dozen police were on the ground around the monument throughout the day. 

The number of reported physical assaults fell by 58% to 21 incidents in the first quarter of the year compared with the same period of 2023, while reported crimes involving property, which includes theft, fraud and vandalism, fell by 18% to 170 incidents, he said.

"There are controversies, people talking about it being a lawless area or cut-throat. It's not at all," he added.

A Brazilian and a British tourist reported being raped on the Champs de Mars park in front of the Eiffel Tower last year, shocking many Parisians and leading to criticism from opposition politicians in the capital.

"We will continue to have a very significant police presence in this area which remains one of my priorities for the whole of the Paris region because it's the image of Paris, it's where millions of people come each year," Nunez added.

The quarterly crime statistics include only reported crimes, with the actual number of incidents likely to be higher. 

The French capital is racing to prepare for the Olympics which start on July 26 and the Paralympics from August 28.

Around 10 million visitors are expected, with the capital sprucing up its most popular areas and moving migrants and homeless people out - to the dismay of some charities.

"Paris will sparkle, Paris will be beautiful, Paris will be ready to welcome the world," Paris deputy mayor Emmanuel Gregoire told reporters on Friday, predicting that "Olympics-mania" would soon emerge.

He said there had been hundreds of projects around Paris aimed at improving the city's appearance, many of which would be unveiled in the weeks ahead.

"It's normal when you have people around to your house, you want to tidy up your bedroom and living room," fellow deputy mayor in charge of sport, Pierre Rabadan, explained. 

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