The French government reported that 1,193 cars were torched by revelers during New Year’s Eve celebrations around the country in what has become a 20-year-old tradition.
Burning empty, parked cars in France is common during New Year’s Eve, although the vehicles are usually not set on fire in large cities such as Paris, the Associated Press reported.
The report of 1,193 torched cars marks a change in policy from former French President Nicolas Sarkozy to his Socialist predecessor, Francois Hollande. Sarkozy stopped publicly announcing the number of torched cars after New Year’s Eve 2009.
Sarkozy wanted the torched car statistics under wraps during his tenure because he believed making the figure public would encourage the crime, while Hollande believes publishing the number of cars set on fire will deter youths from committing the act, the AP reported.
French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said 1,193 cars were torched on New Year’s Eve, according to the AP. The number of cars set on fire rose slightly from New Year’s Eve 2009, when 1,147 vehicles were burnt.
Setting empty cars on fire is not an unusual way to celebrate the New Year in France, with the tradition being started by youths in the 1990s, the AP reported.
The practice is usually seen in smaller cities and poor neighborhoods. Torched cars are a common site in Strasbourg, in eastern France, according to the AP.
Setting vehicles on fire is not exclusive to New Year’s Eve, however. Torching cars is also done during protests.
In 2005, more than 8,8100 vehicles were torched during a youth-led protest.
Strasbourg and Seine-Saint-Denis, a Paris suburb, lead France in the number of torched cars, Valls told the AP.
Not everyone is pleased with the policy of publicly announcing the number of torched cars during New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Bruno Beschizza, national secretary for security matters for France’s UMP party, said releasing the statistics fuels youth to commit more crimes.
“We know that neighborhoods compete” against each other to see who can torch more cars, Beschizza told iTele TV, according to the AP.