Taipei, Dec. 24 (CNA) Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) pledged Sunday that his administration will make combating drug abuse among junior high school students its No. 1 priority next year.
Speaking during an address at an anti-drug fair in the city, Ko said the use of illicit drugs in Taipei is increasing among young students.
The mayor said that according to statistics, the average age of Taipei citizens' first use of narcotics is below 15 years old, with the youngest aged only 12.
This means that first illegal drug use among students is in the time frame of eighth grade to 10th grade, according to Ko.
"We have to solve the problem at its root. The drug problem cannot be solved by the police only," the mayor said.
Ko therefore proposed to focus his anti-drug campaign on Taipei campuses, with extra attention paid to junior high schools.
"Preventing junior high school students from using illicit drugs will be our top priority next year," he affirmed.
Ko added that another reason why Taipei's anti-drug campaigns have been unable to work effectively is that there are too many different government branches involved.
The city's Department of Education is responsible for anti-drug campaigns in schools, while the Department of Social Welfare is responsible for counseling services for drug addicts, the Department of Health is in charge of drug rehabilitation, and the police are in charge of making arrests, Ko pointed out.
Since he assumed office as mayor in late 2014, Ko said, he has been integrating these government branches so that they can join forces in the campaign.
According to Ministry of the Interior (MOI) figures, most of Taiwan's narcotics suspects arrested in 1997 were in their mid-20s. However, since 2000, the use of illicit drugs in Taiwan has been most prevalent among people in their early 20s.
People aged 18-23 now make up the age bracket with the highest prevalence of drug use, according to the MOI.
In 2016, the number of drug users aged between 12 and 17 was three times higher compared with the figure for 1997, the MOI statistics show.