France: 1,000 cars torched across France over new year

2nd Jan 2014

By Ben McPartland
The Local:

The custom of burning cars on New Year’s Eve in France shows no sign of being extinguished with authorities reporting that over 1,000 vehicles were destroyed this week. The night was also marred by three fatal stabbings.

The New Year’s Eve tradition of burning cars in France is alive and well with the country’s Interior Minister Manuel Valls reporting that over 1,000 vehicles were destroyed overnight from Tuesday into Wednesday.

Valls has published figures for the number of cars burned on New Year’s Eve for the last two years as part of his attempts to show “total transparency on levels of delinquency and crime” in the country.

Although 1,067 vehicles were set ablaze, Valls, who mobilised 53,000 police to keep order across the country on New Year’s Eve, was pleased to announce that the figure represented a drop on last year’s total of 1,193.

The area that saw the most cars go up in smoke was the deprived department of Seine-Saint-Denis to the north of Paris, where 80 vehicles were destroyed overnight.

All in all Valls said it was a “positive result”. Whether the owners of the hundreds of torched cars will agree, is a different matter.

The custom of torching cars on New Year’s Eve, reportedly began in the east of the country, around Strasbourg in the 1990s, in the the city’s poorer neighbourhoods.

It was then quickly adopted by youths in cities across the country. It is not just a New Year’s tradition, with cars often set ablaze whenever there is an outbreak of social disorder,as seen in the 2005 riots when hundreds of vehicles were torched.

The celebrations to mark Saint-Sylvestre, as New Year’s Eve is known in France, were also marred by three stabbings, one which took place on the Trocadéro, near the Champs-Elysées in Paris. A 31-year-old was also killed in Grenoble and a 45-year-old man was knifed to death in Dannemarie, southern Alsace.

“No effort will be spared to make sure the perpetrators of these cowardly and heinous crimes are found and brought to justice,” said Valls on Wednesday.

On the roads, where Valls had mobilised 16,000 police officers to crackdown on drink driving, there were three fatalities and 129 people were injured.

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