A war of words has erupted in New Caledonia over a recent spike in youth crime.
The French High Commissioner Thierry Lataste has accused the anti-independence Caledonian Republicans of playing on fears which he said was unworthy of a country approaching a key decision.
The territory is due to have an independence referendum this year.
It's seen a series of high profile break-ins and robberies, including the pillaging of a service station by about two dozen camouflaged thieves.
The incident, which was caught on video, prompted the Caledonian Republicans to claim Mr Lataste was no longer qualified to guarantee public safety.
The party leader Sonia Backes said road checkpoints should be set up to the mainly Kanak villages on the east coast where stolen cars were often found.
Mr Lataste said police were on the job around the clock and while commercial buildings were burgled more often, break-ins in private homes had declined.
By comparison, Mr Lataste said violent attacks were a dozen times more frequent in French Guiana.