The custom of setting vehicles alight on New Year’s Eve is said to have kicked off around Strasbourg, eastern France in the 1990s, in the the city’s deprived, high-immigrant districts.
Vandals in France torched 945 parked cars on New Year’s Eve in an arson rampage that has become a sinister annual “tradition” amid a row over whether the government sought to play down the figures.
According to the French interior ministry, the total of 945, which included cars that were either “totally destroyed” or “more lightly affected”, amounted to a 17 per cent rise compared to last year.
Despite this, New Year’s Eve “went off without any major incident”, the interior ministry insisted in a statement, adding that there were only “a few troubles with public order”.
In fact, police arrested 454 people over the night, 301 of whom were taken into custody.
On Sunday, the ministry had chosen to release a much lower figure of 650 cars torched, as this only indicated the number of vehicles “set on fire” and not those engulfed in the ensuing flames.
The lower figure enabled it to claim: “Once again this year, the overall number of vehicles burned demonstrates that, however intolerable, the phenomenon is contained”. By this calculation, the rise, it said, was only 48 cars.