(CNN) — When in Rome... it could be useful to speak Chinese.
Especially if you get into trouble.
As part of a new experiment to help the vast numbers of Chinese tourists heading to Italy, Chinese police are now being deployed on the streets of Milan and Rome. The move, which reflects China's growing status as a global tourism superpower, is aimed at helping Italy's more than three million yearly Chinese visitors feel safe.
Four officers, wearing Chinese police uniforms, will share information with Italian police and help Chinese visitors in need to contact authorities or report crimes.
Italian Home Secretary Angelino Alfano described the move as a European first, although a similar measure was introduced in Paris in 2014.
"Its main goal is to heighten the sense of security for Chinese tourists who come here. In the future, the project might be expanded to include other cities as well," he said, according to the La Repubblica website.
Chinese visitors to many parts of Europe have in the past been targeted by criminals and gangs who see them as easy prey.
In 2015, 109 million Chinese tourists, with a spending power of $229 billion, traveled abroad, with Europe their most popular destination outside of Asia, according to research data.
Italy Police Chief Alessandro Pansa said the Chinese police deployment was a leap forward for crime-fighting.
"This is a cooperation project which would have been unthinkable a couple of years ago, even between European countries," he told reporters.
"It's a strategic investment which opens an important collaboration on information exchange and on resource sharing, in order to prevent the criminal and terrorist phenomena which are hurting our countries."