'KEEP your eyes open and report your concerns.'

That's the plea from police officers working to tackle drugs gangs in Dorset.

Officers from the force are calling on members of the public to take on urban drug-dealing gangs, who have been expanding their illegal activity into rural and coastal towns across the country.

A report published this week by the National Crime Agency revealed gangs are using a model known as 'country lines'.

This refers to the use of a single telephone number for ordering drugs, operated from outside the area, which becomes the group’s brand. Unlike other criminal activities where telephone numbers are changed on a regular basis, these telephone numbers are maintained and protected.

These gangs will use people, including teenagers from other parts of the country, to come to Dorset and supply drugs. They will also target vulnerable people and drug addicts and will move into their address, usually against their will.

Known as ‘cuckooing’, gang members will exploit the most vulnerable members of the community and take over their premises until they either get moved on by the police or housing associations and landlords become aware.

They use common marketing tactics to get established, including introductory offers.

They will then expand the workforce, recruiting local runners to deliver drugs and money.

Detective Superintendent Mark Callaghan, director of intelligence at Dorset Police, said: “We are working with other forces across the country and the Regional Organised Crime Unit to tackle this growing problem.

“From current activity and intelligence we know these gangs are increasing their activities in Dorset. We have put in place a number of operations and initiatives to tackle this problem.

“I am calling on the public in Dorset to keep their eyes open and report any suspicions and concerns about illegal drug supply in their community to Dorset Police or Crimestoppers anonymously.

“I would like to reassure residents that Dorset remains a safe place to live and we remain committed to safeguarding our communities and tackling criminal activity such as drug dealing and supply.”

Anyone with information about drug dealing in their community can visit the Dorset Police or Crimestoppers website and fill in an online form or call the free and anonymous Crimestoppers line on 0800 555 111 where mobile phone tariffs may apply.