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1,193 cars set alight by vandals

The ‘tradition’ of New Years Eve car burning continued in city suburbs this year

A TOTAL of 1,193 cars were burned out on New Year’s Eve in the latest round of what has become a “tradition” in France.

The figure is slightly up on the last known one – 1,147 for December 31, 2009 – and includes 344 which burned because they were next to ones that were deliberately set on fire.

In the last two years the Sarkozy government decided to keep silent on figures for fear of causing a sense of competition among vandals who some say might try to outdo the previous year or other parts of France.

However this time Interior Minister Manuel Valls decided openness was the best policy.

“I wanted as far as possible to give as much information as I could out of a concern for transparency and truth,” he said. “There is nothing to hide.”

He said he has asked his services to look at ways to better combat the behaviour, including looking at cases where there may be insurance fraud involved. “Burning a car means attacking property that is often obtained with difficulty by people who see it go up in smoke in a few minutes,” he said.

Car burning mainly happens in suburbs of large cities and is said to have started in the 1990s in the Strasbourg area of Alsace, still one of those most affected - 70 cars were burned in the Bas-Rhin department where it is situated.

Among other hotspots were Seine-Saint-Denis (83), Haut-Rhin (72), Nord (61) and Bouches-du-Rhône (51).

Police activity was also somewhat up this New Year’s Eve with 339 people questioned, up from 290 and 244 people taken into custody, up from 181. However the only incidents where there were confrontations with police were in Strasbourg and Mulhouse.

Also in Alsace, Valls regretted the death of a 20-year-old man after a firework exploded in his face.

He said the incident involved a banned “mortar” type firework as did another in the Haut-Rhin, one of four accidents which caused serious but not fatal injuries. In the Hérault a 24-year-old man died after alcohol abuse.

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