Taiwan and the mainland will look at ways to set up a joint crime-fighting system to stamp out cross-strait criminal activity, according to Justice Minister Wang Ching-feng. She said the two sides wanted to eradicate cross-strait crime and the mainland would hold talks with Taiwan on the issue. 'We hope to work out a mechanism to help each other to fight crime, which has been on the rise amid rapid exchanges between the two sides,' Ms Wang said. 'We will send our ministry's officials to participate in the talks.' The joint crime-fighting effort will be high on the agenda when Taiwan's top negotiator, Chiang Pin-kung, and his mainland counterpart, Chen Yunlin, meet for a third round of talks due no later than June. Ms Wang said that although the two sides had signed the Kinmen Agreement for repatriation of criminals and illegal immigrants, a more comprehensive co-operation programme was necessary to deal with the growing number of cross-strait crimes, including phone scams, drug trafficking and smuggling. The Kinmen Agreement was inked in 1990 to deal with the large number of illegal mainland immigrants held in Taiwan. The two sides later agreed to use the Kinmen pact to repatriate criminals, including mainland hijackers and major Taiwanese criminals. Under the agreement, Taiwan had repatriated 38,570 illegal immigrants and 18 hijackers back to the mainland as of January, while the mainland repatriated 366 major criminals, including some of the island's top 10 most-wanted. Due to long-standing hostilities and the absence of formal ties between the two sides, the mainland has become a haven for Taiwanese criminals. Taiwanese outlaws have also worked with their mainland counterparts to smuggle narcotics, untaxed cigarettes, liquor and other illegal products to the island. In the past several years, phone scams have also mushroomed and some Taiwanese groups involved in the fraud schemes have even moved their bases to the mainland to avoid Taiwanese police crackdowns. According to Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, the island's top mainland policy planning body, the mainland is most eager to talk to Taiwan about joint efforts to tackle phone scams and drug trafficking. Ms Wang said her ministry wanted to talk to the mainland about 'exchange of information, provision of evidence and information about crimes and help with investigations'. 'We also want to talk about the seizure and freezing of assets and gains obtained through criminal activities, and recognition of official documents,' she said. Ms Wang said drug trafficking and addiction were also serious problems in Taiwan and as well as stepping up efforts to eliminate the scourges on the island, her ministry had introduced a rehabilitation programme for local drug addicts. 'The programme includes helping former drug addicts find jobs, and providing the necessary medication and help they need to not resume their habits,' she said. The programme includes a 24-hour toll-free hotline started yesterday to help addicts wanting to quit. To ease pressure on Taiwan's congested prisons, Ms Wang said a community service system was set to come into effect on September 1 to allow minor offenders sentenced to less than six months in jail to do community service rather than time behind bars. Taiwan now has 63,000 prisoners in a prison system which is designed to accommodate no more than 54,924.