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Police campaign to stop France’s annual car-torching tradition

It happens every year and the unveiling of the night’s tally is as traditional as New Year’s Eve itself: residents of France’s notorious suburbs go on a car-burning spree. The police are determined to stamp out the yearly orgy of vandalism.

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It’s something of a tradition in France. Every New Year’s Eve, hundreds of cars are torched by revellers making no point other than wanton destruction.

And the announcement of the tally of destruction from New Year's Eve has become a media tradition in its own right.

Last year in Strasbourg, traditionally a hotspot for New Year disturbances, some 70 cars were set on fire, while at least 350 were burned in Paris and its surrounding suburbs.

In total, 1,137 cars were set alight last year, slightly less that the 1,147 torched in 2009.

Campaign against lawlessness

But this year the French government is determined to stamp out these scenes of anarchy as part of its highly-publicised campaign against crime.

The country’s Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux will be joining the extra 6,000 police officers (800 more than last year) mobilised to deal with the seasonal arson.

French authorities believe that a clever analytical approach could help push down the figures.

‘Unhealthy competition’

Hortefeux announced on Wednesday evening that the number of cars torched overnight would not be published outright.

The figures will instead be released “later in the month” in a bid to stop the “unhealthy competition” which the authorities believe actually encourages the youths to raise the number of torchings year after year.

The police have also analysed the geography of the last three years’ arson.

“By studying the map of where cars were burned during the last three years we get a fairly good idea of where to place our reinforcements,” one Interior Ministry employee told reporters.
 

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