Last week several mayors of the long-suffering communities hardest hit by these raging arsonists, started questioning the government's official version of the Bastille Day car-nage, implying that the ministry of the Interior's figures deliberately under-represent the actual numbers of torched cars. [my loose translation]
Elected officials on the left in Seine-Saint-Denis have contested the official report on burned cars the night of 13 to 14 July [Bastille Day], demanding from the Ministry of the Interior "numbers that haven't been fiddled with", after having counted "over 140" within their region.
Friday the minister of the Interior stuck to his report, that as of 6:00 AM on the morning of July 14th, there had been 91 cars burned (including those by propagation) [Note: the government policy is to keep two sets of numbers, one for deliberately torched cars and a separate one for cars that end up catching on fire from being located next to cars that have been set ablaze by arsonists; often the numbers cited in French reports don't include these secondary fires, unless it's stated otherwise, as the minister does here.] in Seine-Saint-Denis, in relation to the 211 vehicles set ablaze in Ile-de-France [the Parisian region] (297 throughout all of France). As ongoing complaints have been filed by the victims, "the tally must certainly have increased since then, yet no consolidated report has yet been established", the ministry was told.
In a press release, the elected officials affirmed that they had assessed, after several days, "over 140 vehicles" destroyed or damaged by fire on just that one night alone, after a "checklist" compiled from other elected officials in 23 of the 40 cities in the département. They are now "demanding" numbers that are not fudged, mostly in consideration for the residents of Seine-Saint-Denis and especially for resources so that these events do not become a ritual on each festive holiday.
According to the elected officials, these numbers were "revised" on July 14th. The first report that they refer to (20 vehicles burned in Seine-Saint-Denis), released to
the press by police sources, was established at 2:00 AM.
"Why this kind of manipulation of the figures? Is it to justify a decrease in the number of officers and resources for the police in our departments?", asks Claude Dilain, mayor of Clichy-sous-Bois...
This wouldn't be the first time that France's official accounting of its youthful residents' fiery vandalism has been called into question. The ministry of the Interior is France's equivalent, more or less, to the FBI; and the individual holding the cabinet position of Minister of the Interior, for four of the last five years prior to France's 2007 Presidential election, was France's current President, Nicholas Sarkozy.
The allegations are pretty serious; is Sarkozy pressuring his cabinet ministers to cook the books on crime statistics, in order to beef up his self-professed image of being tough on crime..? Maybe, as with political rival Segolene Royal's outrageous claims that the Sarkozy administration is breaking into her apartment, Watergate-style, the socialist mayors are just engaged in political theater.
Or maybe, where there's smoke, there's fire...