A Review of Paris’ Protection Against Terrorist Threats

With the recent activities of the extremist group ISIS, some have contacted our office in concern to traveling with the threats of possible terrorists attacks that have been said to target European counties, and the associated heightened security levels.

This is actually something I had touched on before back in October 2010 when people asked my insider view of terrorist prevention and the daily life of Paris. With these heightened security levels, we are asked to stay alert, avoid crowed areas, such as public transit, airports, and touristic sights, as well as Europe because of the threat of terrorist attacks. But as you can see on my post back in 2010, taking action to terrorist threats in Paris has been happening since 1995 when it was a target of a series of bombings.  These bombings had some consequences: no opaque public trash containers, no public luggage lockers, and machine-gun wielding armed soldiers at key high-profile locations including monuments and train stations. Initially it was shockingly incongruous to suddenly see full-camouflaged soldiers with machine guns in central Paris, and I couldn’t help chuckle at the irony that jungle camouflage must be the worst way to blend into an urban jungle, but I suppose the whole point of this so-called ‘camouflage’ was to stand out like a disuasionary sore thumb.

Slowly these minor annoyances became normal to our everyday lives and eventually better compromises were introduced, such as transparent public trash containers and some limited access to luggage lockers. Those shocking full-camouflaged armed forces walking around Paris? Well, we got used to them too; and all these years later they have become a part of our daily lives and a reminder of the presence of protection.

2014-02-23-GarbageCanThe new improved transparent public trash container (the old one looked like a giant green condom)

Due to the increased concern, I wondered what other changes might have been made in the past decade and according to the city of Paris’ website, the city does a yearly report for protection for both tourists and tranquility for the daily lives of Parisians.  The latest goals and improvements made for 2014 included a focus to create specialized brigades in high areas of nightlife, gardens, and parks as well a plan to add at least 1000 more security cameras in high-profile areas of the city.

To be honest, it seems that there is always a security threat of some sort, yet Parisians continue to go about their days as normal, using common sense and being alert to their surroundings keeping a watchful eye for anything unusual, just like a New Yorker would.

As the American president Franklin D. Roosevelt once said “The only thing to fear is fear itself” and while some feel it is best to stay home to feel protected from these radical threats, others strongly believe that the vanishingly low probability of actually coming into harms way should not be irrationally overweighted in one’s mind, and that terrorist threats should not rule our lives and the reasonable decisions we make.

What do you think?

Please share your thoughts in the comment zone below.

40 Comments Add yours

  1. KatiaP says:

    I lived through 9/11 in NY so I pay attention to what’s going on around me. I also believe whatever will be will be. I will still travel no matter what.

  2. Anonymous says:

    As long ago as 1987 the city was taking precautionary measures to protect visitors to the city, and likely well before that time. I remember rounding a corner with my 16 year old daughter and encountering Uzi-carrying soldiers near the Trocadero that spring. Ebola is more of a concern than ISIS to many who travel.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Since the current ISIS threat identified the Metro as a primary target, I would expect to see enhanced security at the stations. Not so. What we did see was a large contingent of police barricading the roads and blocking access to areas around the Presidential Palace and Department of Interior buildings in the 8th. Clearly, the government was protecting itself, not the residents.

  4. Charles Cassini says:

    Obviously ‘my people’ are a bit ahead of the curve here. We should take note and implement some of these same safety procedures.

  5. Betty Ballin says:

    We cannot let terrorists rule our lives, One must be very vigil.I remember traveling to Paris in the
    80’s when armed soldiers were the greeters at Galeries Lafayette. Paris is usually very conscientious about threats, and they do take precautions. The same fear exists when you take
    the NY subway or ride through tunnels in the Metropolitancities. One cannot stop living.

  6. Dave A. says:

    we have just returned from four weeks in France. We felt as secure there as in the US, maybe MORE
    in France, due to all the gun violence in US..

  7. Pat Outland says:

    I too was in 911 in NYC and that experience still has me wired occasionally when I see something confusing. But we are planning to go to Morocco for a month and will not let these madmen and women stop us. Thanks Alex.

  8. Diane F. Oliver says:

    Paris is used to it going back to the time of the Algerian war. . .Experience counts.

  9. waynetutz says:

    If we stop living our normal lives the terrorists have won. I was on an airplane as soon as the restriction was lifted at 9/11…. they will not keep me down!

  10. OSM says:

    I traveled with my family in Jun this year, 7 of us including 3 childrens and we had a blast….We even experienced the strike going to Nice…We are planning to to go again in June 2015….Will have to be vigilant and alert of ISIS, but nnot allow to control us.

  11. Barbara says:

    Waaaaaaaay more concerned about Ebola. Feel more secure in Paris than in my home city.

    1. Dave A. says:

      Hi Barbara:..my belief is that the right wing media has once again scared us.
      I try to never let fear motivate my actions..My advice: Use common sense, have fun!!

    2. Anonymous says:

      Agree, the terrorists are nothing compared to the threat from ebola. What is France doing on THAT issue??

  12. Kenneth Peter Lee says:

    I agree that common sense should rule over fear. The world today is a dangerous place but we still live in it. I also agree that Ebola is much more of a concern…

  13. Richard J. Daniels says:

    Not to appear courageous, but life is short and to experience Paris enhances life and helps make it satisfying, even worthwhile, whatever the dangers,

    1. Dave A. says:

      :).. Life is LONG!! that’s the reason we need to spend as much time as possible in La Belle France!!

  14. Ellen A. says:

    Some travelers may not know that the French police employ a very high number of undercover operatives in Paris, especially in the center of the city most visited by tourists. I always feel quite safe in Paris, and well looked after. While bad things can happen anywhere, I agree that the odds are hugely against any of us being victims while on a French holiday, or even living full time in Paris. We can’t let the terrorists or fear mongers win. Let’s keep the dream of Paris as a free and creative city alive for all of the next generation.

  15. Karen W says:

    Currently in Paris and feel as safe as home city, Chicago. Am cautious but want to experience as much as the world as I can while I can. Went to Iran with our daughter last Oct. and did not feel at all threatened.

  16. Viknesvaran S. says:

    Thanks Alex. We were in Paris in 2011 but always felt safe. We were however alert, in Paris and had no problems despite large crowds of tourists. We did not let fear rulin our trip.

  17. Claire says:

    In Paris for the month of October; feel much safer here than in my hometown, Seattle. As others have noted, be aware of your surroundings. Also, follow your instincts; if something seems to be amiss, avoid it! Lastly, the police are there to help so it’s good to know the local number to call in case of an emergency.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Can’t stop living! Visit Paris! Enjoy! Advice which has served me well for years: if you come upon an unusual concentration of soldiers or police securing an area, building or place, go away now. Information they have may suggest the possibility of a planned, serious incident occurring imminently. Ron H.

  19. riverboatmike says:

    Just back from our Paris trip. We felt as safe there as in any big city. A healthy level of vigilance is the key.

    I also agree with the comments above that we can’t let fear rule our lives. A trip to Paris is always an enriching experience. The situation would have to be way, way worse to stop us from going back.

    Thanks Alex for posting this discussion…..I think it is a topic which does need to be discussed.

  20. Anonymous says:

    I’m less concerned about ISIS terrorist attacks in France than I am about the current demonstrations of anti-Semitism among European citizens. This is how Judenfrei started in the 1930s and it is happening again.

    1. Ellen A. says:

      The government policies of the state of Israel may be subject to criticism and debate, but no rational person should use those policies to denigrate, attack or shun an individual who happens to be Jewish. Don’t worry. You have many friends, and we have your back. Never again.

  21. Alex, I was in Paris in 2010 with my husband when a bomb threat occurred at the Eiffel Tower, where we happened to be. I wrote about it in this post, as one of a few street events we experienced. I’m including the link for anyone interested. We were impressed with the cool manner and handling of the situation. It’s listed under the tab, ‘Paris Posts’ at the top of the blog. We were staying at the time in one of the A La Carte apartments in the Marais.
    http://dghudson.blogspot.ca/2013/09/paris-outside-cafe.html

  22. Don Davidson says:

    While staying at an A La Carte apt. in Marais in June ’14, one night we were taking our 2 young granddaughters to Chartres Restaurant for dinner. My wife and I had been discussing how to get there and I told her we take the No. 74 bus but I was not sure from where.
    Walking towards Rue de Rivoli past a Jewish exhibition with a strong security presence, our 9 y o granddaughter Matilda preceded me in procession. When I caught up she was in conversation with a very large heavily machine gun armed security man. When I asked if everything was alright he explained that she had asked him in perfect French, (her Australian teachers would have been pleased) could he tell us where to catch the No. 74 bus? I guess her attitude was the right one – just carry on as normal. We eventually found Chartres restaurant. and had a delightful memorable night
    with our lovely grandchildren.

  23. Yvonne Hudacek says:

    How reassuring to hear about the measures taken to keep citizens and travellers safe. It would be hard to deny oneself the pleasures of Paris, and hope for world peace before too long.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Since my first trip with my adult daughter we have loved Paris and been amazed how well its officers have handled any such possible problems. On one May holiday a plaza crowd was surrounded by plain clothes officers who immediately segregated possible troublemakers BEFORE anyone else realized what was happening! Never seems to happen in the US.

  25. Nelda Martin says:

    Since my first trip with my adult daughter we have loved Paris and been amazed how well its officers have handled any such possible problems. On one May holiday a plaza crowd was surrounded by plain clothes officers who immediately segregated possible troublemakers BEFORE anyone else realized what was happening! Never seems to happen in the US.

  26. Delysse Storey says:

    View Paris from a different prospective, walk avoid the tourist destinations.
    Take a taxi, forget there is an underground, get lost, discover the local lunch time café.
    Learn what is accepted and what is expected in the do’s and do not’s in Paris.
    Even if you do not speak English your manners will get you everywhere.
    For the years I have visited Paris their Police are one of the most effective in the world.
    I always ask a policeman if I am in need, yes the Parisian people will walk over you simply because you are on their patch, they own it, so watch your step.
    Travel light, do not look like a tourist.
    Paris is like an old friend who will welcome you with open arms, never be afraid of a friend, but be mindful, follow your instincts.

  27. carol says:

    My daughter and I are leaving for Paris next week..then taking a tour of Israel and returning to Paris for another week of art museums. I might avoid the major Metro stations, but other than that Paris here we come, as I have been doing for years.

  28. Maryann H says:

    As others have noted one needs to be vigilant when travelling. I do not care to change my plans and will continue to see and experience the world beyond my home. I hope the worst is to deal with a missed flight, some bad weather, catching a cold, etc. I don’t worry too much about anything else as life needs to be lived. Paris is the perfect city to do so in the most enjoyable ways!

  29. dan says:

    going to paris is wonderful and i have done it many times; but, it is optional. if i feel my life is at risk, i will stay home or visit elsewhere. common sense. no one in paris or elsewhere can currently protect anyone from a suicide bomber.

  30. Valerie & Alison Barton says:

    Our travel experience was pleasant & we felt very safe in Paris in most areas but really appreciated our apartment location, early summer this year. There was an abundance of police presence, & intelligent decisions and daytime travel itineraries, & as single women, gave us incredible and lasting memories. We will be returning as soon as current health and terrorist threats stabilize and are reduced. Observing ones surroundings & promoting good choices reduces risks anywhere. Our good planning & A La Carte’s exceptional quarters assure revisiting as soon as possible! My daughter’s wish of immediate ownership is a constant conversation, only a visit to your fair city will quell & pacify & restore peace in our households!

  31. June Sommers says:

    My friend and I arrive in Paris Nov 1st ,and although we watch the news on all of the major world wide TV Channels and are very aware of Ebola and Terrorists we will not give in to fear and are looking forward to walking the streets of Paris.

  32. Anonymous says:

    I went with my daughter to Paris on Spring 2012. This city is so wonderful, yes we saw soldiers around ;Eiffel Tower,. that was Ok, but we really were scared 5 times when we saw some “pickpockets” one happened at night and 4 during the day in very good sites :Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Arc of Triomphe, Les maries and Versailles .Nevertheless we are planning to go back this summer(2015)

  33. Carol McDaniel says:

    Thank you for a thoughtful, well worded article. It would be a shame if the threat was successful in preventing anyone from enjoying the charm of your beautiful city. One can not live in fear or they have won.

  34. Mr. & Mrs. Floyd Benning says:

    There is just as much chance of a terrorist act in many large cities in the U.S.: NYC, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles etc. & we travel to these cities. We were in Amsterdam & Paris last Oct, 2013. No problems at all. Use common sense and you should be fine. The only place that we saw the military roving was at the Eiffel Tower, same as on a prior trip to Paris. Yes, there are some street hustlers & pickpockets, but ingore the hustlers and use safe practices with your personal goods and cash. The worst part of our trip was coming back into the U.S. through customs in Atlanta and out of hundreds of people going through customs, my husband and I were “cherry picked” out of the line and sent to a room with police and german shepard’s sniffing us and our carry-on luggage. This was because we had been to Amsterdam before going to Paris. We are over 60 yrs old and couldn’t believe it since we had never been searched & sniffed coming back to the U.S. before. We will still travel and not let Terrorists run our life. But U.S. customs discriminary actions might make you miss a connection so be sure you have plenty of time to make them if going through customs if you have been to Amsterdam. By the way, I can hardly wait to visit Paris again & again!

  35. Sarah says:

    I lived in Belgium in the late 70’s and 80’s and visited Paris frequently. There was violence and bombings or threats all over Europe at the time. We were always cautious in any major city. Paris always seemed safe and well protected with police and military presence. Friends and family that have recently traveled to Paris this year report they also felt safe in Paris and were cautious as well. I would have no problem going back to Paris now.

  36. Hugh Thomson says:

    Let’s face it. The muslims are the problem and the violence will only escalate as long as they live there. At the very minimum, all radical muslims should be identified and deported with their imam instructors and the mosques should be survelienced on a constant basis. No further immigration of muslims should be allowed.

    This won’t happen and Paris violence will escalate because there is no political will to really protect the citizens of Paris.

    Hugh Thomson

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