PARIS — Kim Kardashian, the reality television star and Instagram fixture, was robbed at gunpoint in the early hours of Monday during a visit to the French capital for Paris Fashion Week.
Although she was physically unharmed in the attack and has since left France, details of the incident have fueled significant concerns about security in a city still crawling with extra police and military personnel in the wake of attacks by Islamist extremists the past couple of years.
According to an Associated Press report, two men — apparently among a group of five assailants — forced their way into Kardashian’s apartment in the Hotel de Pourtalès, an exclusive apartment-style hotel valued by clients for its discretion that is located near the famous Madeleine church. The Pourtalès is the kind of place that has no website, where in-the-know guests reserve by word of mouth.
Inside, two men — dressed as police officers, according to Ina Treciokas, a spokesman for Kardashian — apparently tied up Kardashian, locked her in the bathroom, and made out with as much as $10 million worth of her jewelry.
It is not known where her two children — North, 3, and Saint, an infant — were at the time, although the AP reported that they were placed under police protection at the nearby Four Seasons Hotel George V.
The question for many in France is: How could something like this have happened in Paris, a city that, for all intents and purposes, has taken significant measures to bolster security since the militant attacks?
Since January 2015, officers armed with FAMAS assault rifles — members of "Operation Sentinel" — have patrolled the entrances to major tourist attractions and sensitive religious sites in Paris and across the country. Furthermore, France remains in a “state of emergency,” which has led to increased police searches and government surveillance.
In the aftermath of the robbery, Mayor Anne Hidalgo, a Socialist, urged politicians “to exercise responsibility” in their reaction amid concerns that Paris’s image as a safe tourist destination could suffer more damage. Between January and June 2016, 1 million fewer tourists visited the French capital, compared with the same period in 2015, according to the BBC.
Tourism, Hidalgo suggested in a statement on Monday morning, was Paris’s bread and butter: “In a complicated context of tourism, in which boosting the number of visitors must be the priority of all, to use this incident for polemical purposes would amount to directly harming the tourism sector, which represents 500,000 jobs.”
But with France facing a presidential election next year — and many voters unhappy at the perceived failure of the Socialist government to prevent attacks — the Kardashian incident is a national embarrassment, and maybe even a campaign issue.
“Do you realize the kind of anti-commercial this is for Paris?” Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, a center-right member of the National Assembly, said on French radio Monday morning. “You can make any kind of commercial you want for Paris, and they are very expensive. All these commercials were canceled out by what happened to Kim Kardashian.”
France suffered attacks in January and November 2015, and again this July. More than 230 people were killed in the attacks.