A French riot policeman stands at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. GETTY IMAGES

The head of the Paris police said crime around the Eiffel Tower and other tourist hotspots had dropped significantly ahead of the Olympics later this year.

Laurent Nunez told AFP that the deployment of extra police had helped reduce robberies and assaults around around the Eiffel Tower, where the alleged rape of two foreign tourists sparked a public outcry last year.

"We have had excellent results in this area as well as in other tourist zones in Paris," he told AFP at the foot of the Eiffel Tower on Friday, saying several dozen police had been on duty around the monument all day.

The number of reported physical assaults fell 58 percent in the first quarter of the year to 21 incidents compared with the same period last year, while reported property crimes, which include theft, fraud and vandalism, fell by 18 percent to 170 incidents. "There are controversies, people talk about it being a lawless area or cutthroat. It's not like that at all," Nunez added. 

A Brazilian and a British tourist reported being raped in the Champs de Mars park in front of the Eiffel Tower last year, shocking many Parisians and leading to criticism from opposition politicians in the capital.

Police question a migrant and ask for identification near the Eiffel Tower. GETTY IMAGES
Police question a migrant and ask for identification near the Eiffel Tower. GETTY IMAGES

"We will continue to have a very strong police presence in this area, which remains one of my priorities for the whole of the Paris region, because it's the image of Paris, it's where millions of people come every year," stressed Nunez. The quarterly crime statistics only include reported crimes, so the actual number of incidents is likely to be higher.

The French capital is racing to prepare for the Olympic Games, which begin on 26 July, and the Paralympics, which start on 28 August. Around 10 million visitors are expected, with the capital sprucing up its most popular areas and evicting migrants and the homeless - to the dismay of some charities.

"Paris will shine, Paris will be beautiful, Paris will be ready to welcome the world," Paris deputy mayor Emmanuel Gregoire told reporters on Friday, predicting that "Olympic mania" would soon set in. He said there were hundreds of projects across Paris aimed at improving the city's image, many of which would be unveiled in the coming weeks.

"It's normal, when you have people in your house, to want to tidy up your bedroom and living room," explained fellow deputy mayor in charge of sport, Pierre Rabadan.