AFP/The Local — Jan 2, 2017
France saw a jump in arrests on New Year’s Eve as well as an increase in the number of cars torched by vandals, a ritual among revellers in the country’s high-rise suburbs.
The number of vehicles set alight on the night of December 31st climbed from 935 a year ago to 1,031, while arrests rose from 456 to 510, the interior ministry said on Monday.
Violence also marred celebrations in the Paris suburb of Champigny-sur-Marne, where two police officers were attacked by a large group of people at a party.
French President Emmanuel Macron took to Twitter to denounce the “cowardly and criminal lynching of police officers doing their duty” and warned that the culprits would be “found and arrested”.
“I regret that incidents like yesterday can happen but overall people were able to enjoy New Year’s eve in a peaceful manner,” Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said Monday.
Some 140,000 security and emergency forces were deployed across France on New Year’s Eve.
The country has been on alert following a wave of jihadist attacks that have killed 241 since 2015.
So why do the French burn cars anyway?
The custom of setting vehicles alight on New Year’s Eve reportedly began in the east of the country, around Strasbourg, in the 1990s, in the city’s poorer neighbourhoods.
It was then quickly adopted by youths in cities across the country.
Cars are often set ablaze whenever there is an outbreak of social disorder, as seen in the 2005 riots when hundreds of vehicles were torched.
The ONDRP’s Christophe Schulz told Le Parisien newspaper that there are diverse reasons that youths burn cars.
“Vehicle fires are often associated with a context of riots and urban violence. It can also be a ‘game’ to break the monotony, or it could be motivated by vengeance after a violent arrest. Or it could just be to get rid of a car used in a crime or as an insurance scam.”
So while car owners might welcome the fall, they still face a few sleepless nights this summer.