France to strengthen video surveillance system

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PARIS, Oct 12 (Reuters) France will triple its number of video surveillance cameras by 2009, Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said today, adding the measure was necessary to fight terrorism and street crime.

Alliot-Marie told Le Monde newspaper video surveillance had remained 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 authorised cameras in France at around 340,000 at the moment, Le Monde said.

Alliot-Marie said Paris's RATP public transport network would increase its numbers of cameras and the exchange of images between local communities would also be strengthened.

''I'll be particularly vigilant that French people's safety will always be assured in respect of their freedoms,'' she said.

France stepped up security measures after the 2005 attacks in London's transport system that killed 52 people.

French authorities have also said gang violence is an increasing problem in Paris, which has been the scene of repeated scuffles between rival gangs in recent months.

Alliot-Marie last month announced the creation of a special police cell on youth violence and said information collected through video surveillance should be shared among different services.

French police also hope a mini spy-in-the-sky drone the size of a toy glider will help them track rioters and fight crime.

The police's ELSA device, a 1.2-metre (4-foot) long vehicle powered by two electric motors and equipped with day-and-night vision cameras, is due to begin full operational testing next year.

The recent gang clashes have revived memories of the weeks-long 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 under a previous conservative government.

REUTERS PD KN1845

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