Officials have been increasingly alarmed over the practice of street challenges – known as “rodeos” in France – which sees youths race each other at high speeds on public roads, usually at night and on motorbikes.
There are fears that unusually quiet roads during the lockdown has encouraged the practice further. The events sometimes involve dozens of participants.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said a “more ambitious” approach to the phenomenon was needed by the authorities, while emphasising that the increase in police interventions wasn't “necessarily” to do with a hike in the number of incidents but rather a change in practices.
“The groups engaging in illegal street racing have increased in size, in a further breach of the law,” he said, adding that 337 incidents were recorded during France's strict lockdown period between March 17th and May 11th.
A race on Paris' ring road on May 15th led to the hospitalisation of a police officer who tried to stop a 30-strong group on motorbikes.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner. Photo: AFP
“We need to be up to the task of seizing vehicles, by leaning on intelligence services and judicial enquiries,” Castaner said, during a visit to a Parisian police station.
“By confiscating offenders' motorbikes, quads and scooters, we deprive them of their ability to harm themselves and others,” he said.
A new law passed in 2018 gave the police more power to intervene and turned street racing into an offence punishable by a fine of €30,000 and up to two years in prison.
But the time has come for a “new, wider plan of action that is even more ambitious” than the 2018 law, Castaner said.
He asked ruling party MPs Natalia Pouzyreff and Catherine Osson to draw up policy proposals.
Castaner also said there was need for more prevention work and that it should be carried out in partnership with local authorities and associations.