PATROLS targeting underage drinkers on the streets of Hampshire will be stepped up over half-term.

The move by Hampshire police comes as part of a national crackdown on alcohol-fuelled children committing crime.

Extra officers will be targeting trouble hotspots around the county throughout half-term, beginning on February 16, and confiscate drink from those found boozing on the streets.

It is part of a package of measures to tackle underage drinking announced by the home Secretary Jacqui Smith yesterday.

Along with giving police new powers to ban youngsters drinking in public, parents will be held more accountable if their children are found openly drinking by signing up to parenting contracts.

Inspector Alistair Nichols, Hampshire Constabulary's Force Alcohol Harm Reduction Lead said: "Drunken teenagers are more likely to cause criminal damage and antisocial behaviour so police officers across Hampshire and Isle of Wight will be confiscating alcohol from under-18s before the situation gets out of hand."

Police are also able to use this opportunity to gather information regarding the young people's ability to access alcohol locally in order that follow up enquiries can be made with any identified licensed premises or through parents.

The new drive is a boost to the Daily Echo's Keep Kids Sober campaign which was launched by Saints striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, after it was revealed that children as young as 11 were drinking on the streets of Southampton.

Official figures showed that the number of children and teenagers treated in Hampshire hospitals for alcohol-related illnesses had more than doubled in the past decade.

The campaign is backed by Southampton City PCT, Hampshire Constabulary, South Central Ambulance service and the youth projects No Limits and Streetwise.

Professor John Newton, regional director of public Health, NHS South Central said: "Underage drinking is a real concern for the NHS. The damage that drinking causes at such a young age is a tragedy and can easily be under-estimated by the young people concerned.

"What is also concerning is that more and more children aged 16 and under are drinking and being admitted to hospital as a result."

It is an offence for adults to buy alcohol for under-18s, they could receive an £80 fixed penalty notice or end up in court and fined up to £5,000.