Youths in the often depressed suburbs of French cities have been torching hundreds of vehicles on New Year’s Eve since the early 1990s in what police say has become a competition to see which area can cause the most damage.
Police last year said they would no longer release figures for the number of vehicles set on fire to put an end to the “competition and ranking” that had emerged, with more than 1,000 vehicles being torched every year.
In a police circular seen by AFP, Interior Minister Claude Gueant urged security forces to “mobilise with the greatest vigilance” for the New Year’s Eve celebrations on Saturday.
Instructions sent with the circular said local security forces should take all measures necessary including “restricting retail sales of petrol.”
In Paris, where tens of thousands are expected to gather for the annual celebration on the Champs Elysées, police have banned the sale of “domestic combustibles” such as lighter fuel from Wednesday to Monday.
Alcohol sales have also been banned around the Champs Elysées on New Year’s Eve.
Paris police noted in a statement on Thursday that as in other recent years fireworks will be banned on the Champs Elysées and no official display will take place.
“There will not be a fireworks display in the capital on the night of December 31st,” the statement said.
“The sale and use of all fireworks are strictly forbidden during the year-end holiday season because they are liable to seriously disrupt public order and security.”
It noted that the sale of fireworks during that period was punishable by a fine of up to 1,500 euros ($1,940) and their use by a fine of 38 euros.
Tens of thousands of police are expected to take to the streets of France to ensure security on Saturday.
During last year’s celebrations, nearly 54,000 security officers, including police and gendarmes, were deployed, including more than 8,000 in Paris.