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French Tourists Warned To Stay Away From South, West Sides

CHICAGO (CBS) -- France is warning its citizens to be careful about traveling to certain neighborhoods in Chicago.

Stay away from the West Side and don't travel south past 59th Street, the French traveling public has been told. Why? Well, because there is a lot of crime there--shootings, murders, beatings, drug dealing and other gang activity.

Yes, it's true, Chicago does have a crime problem in certain neighborhoods--and most of it is gang-related. However, crime is not exclusive to the West and South Sides. The French would be advised to keep their iPhones and wallets secure in Lakeview, for example.

Thankfully, the French could still enjoy the Museum of Science and Industry, Robie House, University Of Chicago and President Obama's home. They just slip in above the no-travel zone.

Chicago is not alone. A dozen other major cities have neighborhoods that the French should avoid. To be fair, the U.S. State Department issues warnings about foreign travel, too.

French authorities are advising their citizenry to avoid bad-mouthing the city's bad neighborhoods.

"Due to the current international context and the sensitivity of the American public, it is advisable to our compatriots to exercise restraint in conversations on these topics in public places," according to an advisory on the French Diplomatie website.

Chicagoans are sensitive about many things--like when a TV host makes fun of our deep dish pizza or when some group decides one antenna is actually part of New York's tall building when the antenna on our tall building isn't.

Add French travel plans to that list. At least, according to the French.

Pierre Lasserre, originally from France, has lived in Chicago for more than 20 years.

"There's a lot of history and a lot of beautiful areas to see on the south side of Chicago," said Lasserre.

Ald. Walter Burnett Jr's ward covers a large part of the west side.

I think that's an over generalization. I was very insulted by that," said Burnett. "Harpo Studios is on the Near west Side. You have the United Center where Michael Jordan's statue is standing up. And Some of the top restaurants."

Rashanah Baldwin is the co-founder of RAGE. It stands for Resident Association of Greater Englewood an organization promoting youth and economic development in the community.

"I think it's ridiculous. They don't know Chicago. They have to come here and find out what's really happening in our community," said Baldwin.

Baldwin hosts what she calls Englewood Shop Talk with Shanah B. The goal is to address issues impacting Englewood. This Thursday, the shop talk will be held at Powell's Barber Shop at 1139 West 63rd Street (off of Racine) from 6:30pm to 7:30 p.m.

The French Embassy released a statement saying, "We regret that some elements of the previous travel advisory were discomforting to the community. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs faces the delicate challenge to provide useful information to our fellow citizens travelling to the US while avoiding to stigmatize specific communities; we believe the current drafting strikes a good balance in this regard. Thousands of tourists visit Chicago every year, it is a very popular tourist destination within the United states. In 2012, 1,45 million French citizens vacationed in the US. The cities and neighborhoods singled out in our travel advisory are the most popular destinations, therefore it is our duty to inform the French citizens of some risks, in order to make sure they make the most out of their stay in the US and are looking forward to coming back."


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