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Adam Thomson

JUNE 1, 2016 0
The 46m shoppers who annually visit the Quatre-Temps shopping centre on the edge of Paris now have their bags security checked before passing through its glass portals. In the heart of the city, tourists at the Louvre are subjected to longer queues since the authorities improved safety checks at the museum.

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Habits here are changing after 2015’s terrorist incidents: in January three Islamist extremists murdered 17 people in targeted shootings launched against the Charlie Hebdo magazine, police and a Jewish supermarket. In November gunmen and suicide bombers left at least 130 dead and hundreds injured.

So what is the city doing to minimise the risk of further attacks and how might this change Paris? In an interview with the FT, Jean-Louis Missika, deputy mayor of Paris, says that technology will play an increasingly important role both in preventing future incidents and in dealing with them if they should occur.

The city’s leftwing government has started a 3D-scanning programme for thousands of public and private buildings to help security forces react better to siege situations, a need that was underlined by the hostage takings that took place during last year’s attacks.

Mr Missika says: “We have to have a much better vision of public spaces.” He adds 3D scans are “a way of visualising the entire building — inside and out — to help us deal with emergency issues”.

He says the scheme, which includes all publicly owned buildings and other selected private structures, from large offices to supermarkets, was financed publicly and privately. It costs between €3,000 and €10,000 to scan each building. Local government is also co-ordinating various networks of CCTV cameras, he says: “After November’s attacks we discovered that police can follow a car in Paris but the system of cameras outside the city is different.”

Mr Missika adds there are about 40,000 public and private CCTV cameras in Paris. This number is thought to lag behind London, which is one of the world’s most monitored cities. He says a seamless link between cameras is more important than numbers.

The French capital’s newly inaugurated Les Halles project — an undulating, 2.5 hectare roof spanning a large pedestrian area with shops and restaurants — is an example of this approach. It has a command centre where police can see all cameras in the complex, whether publicly or privately owned.

However, Raffaello Pantucci, director of international security studies at London’s Royal United Services Institute, says CCTV cameras are more useful after an attack than in preventing one. Many cameras are not monitored all the time, although there will be more regular monitoring of CCTV in places thought to be at greater risk. “Most of these cameras are recording for potential use in investigations.”