Mayor begs president to stop town’s car torchers

The mayor of a small French town has made a dramatic appeal to President François Hollande to do something to stop a wave of car-burning he says has made his town look like Beirut at the height of Lebanon's civil war. The damage toll so far? Seventeen vehicles.

Mayor begs president to stop town's car torchers
One French mayor thinks the president needs to intervene against car torchers in his town (not shown here). Photo: Niall62/Flickr

Torching cars is a popular past-time for disaffected youths in France, which usually reaches its peak on New Year's Eve.

But Gustave Dassonville, the centre-right UMP mayor of the town of Halluin near the Belgian border, says it has taken on such proportions in his town that he needs outside help to stamp it out.

Seventeen cars been been burnt out there in the last two weeks, he said. That's a small number compared to the 1,067 vehicles that went up in smoke across France last New Year's Eve, but it's a lot for a town of just over 20,000 people.

"Fronts of houses blackened by flames, burnt-out car carcasses all over the place. You'd think you were in Beirut in the 1980s. And what is the state doing? Nothing?" Dassonville wrote in an open letter to the president.

SEE ALSO: 1,000 cars torched across France over new year

"While you are playing policeman in Iraq and Syria, things are burning here at home, and that doesn't seem to bother you," he wrote in the letter that called on the president to provide funds for more policing in his town.

Car-torching, thought to have began in earnest in the 1990s in the Strasbourg area, has become a new year tradition for some youngsters in France. It is conducted on a lesser scale throughout the year, mostly in poorer neighbourhoods.

Still, this type of arson has become such a problem that authorities have stopped publishing detailed official figures on the number of burnt cars after it was discovered that a district-by-district breakdown was fuelling destructive competition between rival gangs.

By : Rory Mulholland

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