How Italy plans to fight back against monument vandals

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How Italy plans to fight back against monument vandals
City authorities clean graffiti on the monument on Monday. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

Break-ins and vandalism are a long-running problem at Italy's many ancient cultural sites, but preventing them can be tough and costly. The issue has once more been thrust into the spotlight after two incidents at Rome's Colosseum - a break-in and graffiti - over the weekend.


City authorities on Tuesday announced plans to bolster security around the area and clamp down on those behind acts of vandalism. The proposed measures include 'ultra high-tech' surveillance and harsher punishments for those who flout the rules.

Additional security personnel have already been deployed at sites including the Colosseum, as the country is on high alert for terror attacks. Italy's terror warning has stayed at level 2 - the highest possible in the absence of a direct attack - in the wake of attacks on France, Germany and Belgium over the past year.

But the beefed-up security presence wasn't enough to deter vandals over the weekend, as the city does not have the resources for nighttime security staff.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, two drunk tourists scaled a four-metre gate in an attempt to enter the ancient amphitheatre - a stunt which left one of the pair with a fractured pelvis. Police charged the tourists with trespassing.

And on Monday morning, staff at the site had another shock to deal with, in the form of graffiti on one of the columns close to the entrance: the word 'morte' (death) had been daubed in black paint.

Culture Minister Dario Franceschini described the vandalism as "an affront to a monument which is symbolic of global cultural heritage" and called for harsher punishments for perpetrators.

In the video below, Colosseum workers are seen removing the graffiti.

Italy's government in late December 2016 approved a bill which would see punishments for cultural vandalism drastically increased, and Franceschini expressed hope that this would come into force soon.

The bill introduces a specific offence for defacing or damaging cultural heritage or landscapes, and increases the punishment from a minimum of one year to a maximum of five years' imprisonment.

In the past, judges have come down hard on anyone found vandalizing the Colosseum, with one Russian tourist fined €20,000 for carving a giant 'K' into one of the building's pillars last year.

In addition to tougher punishments, would-be vandals will also have to reckon with a more advanced surveillance system.

The superintendent for the Colosseum, Francesco Prosperetti, said he would work on new security measures with local police and army soldiers.

Plans included a more sophisticated CCTV system to detect any movement - but it would be specifically designed to avoid being triggered by animals such as stray cats and birds.

Prosperetti also mooted the idea of a 'no-go zone' around part of the Colosseum, which would be chained off and protected with video surveillance. 




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