ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Italy has become the first country to try to make Chinese tourists feel more secure. Chinese tourism to Europe is growing rapidly. But following terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, travelers from China have started feeling less at ease on the continent. Here's NPR's Sylvia Poggioli.
SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: In Rome's vast Piazza del Popolo, two uniform men try to help a German tourist with directions. And as is all too common in Rome, instructions get lost in translation.
(CROSSTALK IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
POGGIOLI: But it's the men's uniforms that leave the woman more perplexed. These cops assisting her are not Italian. They're Chinese. They're part of an unprecedented experiment - Italian and Chinese policeman working together on joint patrols on the streets of Rome and Milan. The aim is to assist Chinese tourists, some 3 million a year to Italy alone.
(CROSSTALK IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
POGGIOLI: Today, those needing help here are two distraught Belgians. One has just been pickpocketed at McDonald's.
PAGE BO: His wallet was stolen. And he wants to - many credit cards were inside, so they are trying call the bank.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: He's calling the bank.
POGGIOLI: This is Pang Bo, deputy director of the police bureau in Guangzhou, the city once known in the West as Canton. He first visited Rome as a tourist 14 years ago while serving as a peacekeeper in Bosnia. Today, he's very proud to be walking the beat in Rome.
BO: When the Chinese tourists saw us, they were amazed, astonished and very, very happy and excited to see the Chinese police here with Chinese police uniform here (laughter). If I were them, I would do the same.
(Foreign language spoken).
POGGIOLI: Switching to rudimentary Italian, Pang Bo suggests to his Italian partners that they move on with their patrol. The law enforcement foursome strolls down the center of Via del Corso. It's one of Rome's premier shopping streets, and the men immediately attract attention. Pang Bo stops to chat with several Chinese women.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).
BO: They saw in the news that the Chinese police are patrolling in Rome. So he say he's very happy to see you guys really are here. The other two, they were students here. They came over to study the arts.
POGGIOLI: Alongside tourists, there are some 266,000 Chinese nationals living and working in Italy. But there's little contact with Italian society. National police chief Alessandro Pansa describes the joint patrols as part of a new policy of proximity policing - being close to citizens' needs as well as a broader strategic investment.
ALESSANDRO PANSA: (Through interpreter) It will lead to a wider international cooperation, exchange of information and sharing resources to combat the criminal and terrorist groups that afflict our countries.
POGGIOLI: According to the daily Corriere della Sera, one of the main aims of the joint patrols and perhaps the most difficult is breaking the code of silence within Italy's large Chinese community. That could help break up the many lucrative illegal activities run jointly by Chinese and Italian organized crime, including drug trafficking, counterfeiting and running sweatshops. Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Rome.
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