France has a strange New Year’s tradition of torching cars and that happens especially in the largest cities, which compete every year for the No. 1 spot – that is the highest number of torched cars.
To fight this disturbing phenomenon, which cannot compare to isolated incidents like the one in Vancouver in 2011, the French government sent a record 53,000 law enforcement officers to patrol major cities from 6 pm on December 31 to 6 am on January 1.
The result? The number of torched cars dropped by 10 percent compared to last year. While authorities may see progress in these figures, try telling the owners of the 1,067 torched cars across the country that things are going in the right direction…
French Interior Minister Manuel Valls held a press conference last Wednesday highlighting that December 31 was “one of the year’s most important events in terms of public security”. He also reported the deaths of three people that were stabbed in separate incidents.
The embarrassing tradition of vehicle arson started in the poor suburbs near big cities and it’s mostly concentrated in these areas. In particular, it started in Strasbourg in the northeast of France in the late 1980s, growing into an alarming phenomenon during the 1990s.
In 1997, national media began to obsessively cover the phenomenon, with local government official Patrice Magnier saying at the time that he saw a clear “correlation between the media focus on the phenomenon and the rise in incidents.” In fact, vandals from rival neighborhoods were competing for the media spotlight.
Soon the tradition spread across France, with a new peak in New Year’s car burning being observed between 2005 and 2009. Observers say youths from poor communities burn cars as a form of protest against the state, blaming it for their lack of economic opportunities.
Note: Video and print-screen are from 2012, courtesy of Tele/YouTube
By Dan Mihalascu