ALCOHOL ABUSE HITS THE ROOF WITH YOUTHS IN NEW CALEDONIA

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NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (March 27, 2002 - Oceania Flash)---Officials in New Caledonia are concerned about alarmingly high alcohol-related delinquency statistics among youths, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

According to the latest statistics provided by Nouméa's municipal police, the number of minors (defined by French law as under 18) who were arrested last year in the capital for "public drunkenness" (an offense, according to French law) has risen by 370 percent, compared to the previous year.

In their annual activity report, Nouméa police say they have been particularly tough on excessive alcohol consumption, because this often leads to traffic accidents, sexual abuse or even assault on both locals and tourists.

Last year, security constables arrested 1,983 individuals for public intoxication. They usually were confined for a short time in so-called "de-tox" cells until they were deemed to have return to their senses.

Overall, the increase compared to 2000 is 9.02 per cent. But in the under 18 category, 18 youths arrested in 2000 increased to 85 in 2001.

Nouméa police say in 2001 they also warned 36,547 individuals, an average of over 100 persons a day, who were acting in a disorderly manner in public due to alcohol consumption.

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