POLICE in Warwickshire are urging the public to be on the look out for signs of county lines drug dealing.
County lines operations see dealers from cities move into towns where their faces are not known to local police to peddle drugs.
The highly-organised city gangs identify drug users or other vulnerable people in their target towns and send ‘runners’ to take over their homes – often children as young as 14 – to enable them to deal at street level.
It is a nationwide problem with gangs operating from cities including nearby Birmingham.
Warwickshire Police has a number of operations running aimed at disrupting county lines and putting those responsible before the courts.
The call to the public comes after five men from Warwickshire and Birmingham were sentenced to a total of more than 20 years in prison for their role in a county lines operation importing drugs into Warwickshire from Birmingham.
Signs people are urged to look out for include unknown or suspicious people going into a neighbour’s house – especially if the neighbour is vulnerable; children or young people going missing from home or school; someone with multiple phones, tablets or SIM cards; someone suddenly having money from an unknown source; and a person starting to abuse drugs and alcohol.
Det Ch Insp Neil Reader said: “We are getting very good at disrupting county lines gangs operating in Warwickshire and bringing the key players to justice.
“However, we also need the people’s help – the public are our eyes and ears in the community and it is important they are looking our for the signs of county lines drug dealing and report it to the police.
“County lines criminals tend to target youngsters and vulnerable people, getting them to deal drugs. This is why we are asking people to look out for the signs. On their own, each of these signs may not be suspicious but put them together with changes in behaviour it could be a sign of county lines drug dealing.
“If you have any suspicions please call the police. Your piece of information, no matter how small, might be the final piece of the jigsaw that means we can take action.”
Anyone with information should call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.