French delinquents mark New Year by torching 1,200 cars image

Almost 1,200 parked cars were set on fire on New Year’s Eve in France, in a “tradition” that dates from the 1990s.

Each year, young revelers torch hundreds of empty, parked cars, with this year’s toll reaching 1,193 vehicles burned, according to Interior Minister Manuel Valls.

It’s for the first time in three years that such figures have been released by the ministry as the former conservative government of Nicolas Sarkozy stopped publishing them to prevent competition among car-torching youths. On December 31, 2009, the last public figure available, 1,147 cars were burned.

Usual car fires happen in France during the year for many reasons, including criminals hiding clues of their crimes and people making false insurance claims. However, the unusual phenomenon started when car-torching became a way to mark the arrival of the New Year.

The first cases were reported in the 1990s in the region around Strasbourg in eastern France, with perpetrators being youths from poor neighborhoods. Torching cars was also a means of protest during the 2005 unrest by youths from housing projects. Back then, 8,810 vehicles were burned in less than three weeks.

This New Year’s Eve the Paris suburban region of Seine-Saint-Denis had the most torched cars, followed by two regions around Strasbourg.