UNDER-AGE drinking is playing a significant role in arson-related crime, which is costing Hamp-shire more than £100m each year.

Fire chiefs warn that alcohol misuse is a key characteristic of young fire-raisers, who are mostly male.

The Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service youth engagement team is working hard to prevent young people getting caught up in a world of arson and antisocial behaviour.

It says more than half of arson cases involve young offenders - often under the influence of drink or drugs.

Schools are the most arson hit buildings.

The Daily Echo's Keep Kids Sober campaign is encouraging adults and parents - as the main source of alcohol for younger children - to take a more active and responsible role in teaching them about the consequences of alcohol and to think before supplying them with drink.

Youth engagement adviser Mo Bond said the fire service supported initiatives to reduce under-age drinking.

She said: "Under-age drinking can be a major factor in the carrying out of many types of crime.

"These include property damage and fire-setting, driving while under the influence and acquisitive offences, such as the stealing of vehicles."

Hampshire police believe there is a strong link between under-age drinking and antisocial behaviour.

The Home Office says two-thirds of children who drink commit nuisance behaviour.

Initiatives The fire service has undertaken several initiatives to engage young people and turn them away from antisocial behaviour, such as the Life Project, Firesetter Intervention Scheme, and Young Firefighters Association Donna Smith who leads the fire service's schools education team said: "Firefighters are extremely good role models to tackle the resulting antisocial behaviour caused by the disinhibiting factors of alcohol."

She said the fire service was involved in some innovative programmes that had produced some outstanding results in changing the wayward attitudes of the young people who took part. Parents wanting fire safety advice should log on to hantsfire.gov.uk.

l To find out more about our Keep Kids Sober campaign or to download a poster visit www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/campaigns. To request a colour poster e-mail: matt.smith@soton-echo.co.uk.