In France’s rundown suburbs, it has become as much of a New Year tradition as champagne and fireworks in more affluent neighbourhoods.
Every year, the night of December 31-January 1 sees more than 1,000 cars set ablaze across the country in an orgy of vandalism to which the authorities have, until now, largely turned a blind eye.
Since 2010, no official figures on the number of vehicles torched have been published, after it was discovered that a district-by-district breakdown was fuelling a destructive competition between rival gangs.
But Interior Minister Manuel Valls on Monday promised that this year’s figures would be released as soon as they had been collated.
“Because a problem is hidden, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist,” Valls said.
“We have to have transparency. I don’t want the count of burnt cars stopping at 6:00 am, as it often did in the past to reduce the total. The French have the right to know the reality.”
France will have 65,000 police and other emergency workers on duty for Monday night’s end-of-year celebrations.