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29 April 2020
Dorset Police is asking members of the public to be vigilant and to report any drug dealing or other suspicious activity taking place in their communities.

Since the Government restrictions were imposed to stop the spread of Covid-19 (Coronavirus), 'County Lines' drug dealers have changed the way they operate. 

County Lines is a term used to describe urban gangs supplying drugs to other parts of the UK via dedicated mobile phone lines. The gangs are likely to exploit children or vulnerable adults to move and store drugs and will often use coercion.

Previously, deal lines were created to take orders for drugs and runners (who are often young and/or vulnerable people) were used to transport and collect payment.  The restrictions on movement have prohibited these methods, however criminal gangs are now adapting their operations to be able to continue their illegal activity. 

Temporary Chief Superintendent Caroline Naughton from Dorset Police said: “When the restrictions were implemented, initially we saw a decrease in drug dealing.  However we know the gangs and ‘County Lines’ suppliers are still operating - they are just changing their methods to get round the restrictions. 

“We already know about a lot of their activities and how they have changed their operations but we always want to know more and help from the public is invaluable.  Therefore, we are asking members of the public to tell us if they have seen anything suspicious or have concerns about people within their community.  

“Dorset is one of the safest places in the country to live.  Any information from the public will help us further restrict and disrupt the deal lines, prosecute those organising the activity, safeguard vulnerable victims caught up in the networks, and continue to keep our communities safe. 

“So if you see or suspect any use of drugs in your neighbourhood, unknown or suspicious characters and lots of comings and goings from houses, then please report this using our online contact channels: dorset.police.uk/contact.  Alternatively you can call CrimeStoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or report online: crimestoppers-uk.org.”

Martyn Underhill, Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “Sadly, ‘County Lines’ dealers will stop at nothing to ply their damaging trade, bringing drugs into our towns and villages as well as exploiting vulnerable people, and the Covid-19 restrictions have led to these gangs changing their tactics.

“Now, more than ever, we need the community to work with us so please find out about the signs to look out for and if you see anything suspicious in your neighbourhood contact Dorset Police.” 

Police operations to disrupt ‘County Lines’ activity have been running for several years and regularly lead to the prosecution of criminal gangs.  Since Oct 2019 to March 2020 Dorset Police have conducted 217 disruptions against ‘County Lines’.

For more information about ‘County Lines’ supply and what to look out for, please visit our website – Dorset.police.uk

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