DORSET'S top policeman said his officers will "cut the head off the snake" to tackle drug gangs who flood the county with class A substances.

Chief Constable James Vaughan reaffirmed his commitment to tackling so-called 'county lines' practices after five young London men were sentenced for dealing drugs in Bournemouth.

The practice refers to 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.

"Dorset Police works with the Met Police and the National Crime Agency to try to cut the head off the snake," Chief Constable Vaughan said.

"We are trying to catch organised gang operations out of major cities."

Officers use community intelligence to catch dealers. Covert operations also take place, he said.

"Our neighbourhood policing response is key," he added.

Martyn Underhill, Dorset's police and crime commissioner, said the police work with local authorities and other public services to tackle county lines - but said more can be done.

"We need our partners to help us more in that area," he told the Daily Echo.

"We think there is more that can be done together, in particular with helping vulnerable people affected."

As reported in the Daily Echo, Morgan Okhiria, 23, and Abdifathi Ibrahim, 18, were arrested in Suffolk Road on October 20 last year after attracting the attention of two police officers in plain clothes.

Between them, they had packages of crack cocaine and heroin worth more than £2,500 in their pockets.

Neither of the defendants had even visited Bournemouth or been in trouble with the police before, and Ibrahim, who was just 17 at the time of the offence, suffers poor mental health.

Judge Stephen Climie said the defendants were both "fairly classic candidates for a drugs operation", and raised particular concerns for Ibrahim.

Ibrahim, of Halston Drive, Bristol, was sentenced to a three-year community order with 35 rehabilitation activity requirement days.

Okhiria, of Haredon Close, London, was also sentenced to a three-year community order, but will also carry out 150 hours of unpaid work and be the subject of a two-month curfew.

Christopher Agyemang, Kevin Duarte and Mamadu Seidi were sentenced after establishing a 'pop-up' shop at a Bournemouth hotel to deal drugs.

The man booked a room at the Heathlands Hotel in Grove Road in the early hours of October 10 2016.

Each admitted being concerned in the supply of cocaine and heroin.

Duarte, now 19 and of Broadhurst Avenue, Ilford, has no previous convictions. He was sentenced to 16 months in a young offender institution.

Seidi, now 22 and of Bedford Road, Ilford, is currently serving a sentence of seven years and two months for conspiracy to commit robbery. At the time the drugs offence was committed, he had no criminal record, it was heard.

He was sentenced to 10 months in prison consecutive to his existing sentence.

Agyemang, now 28 and of Hyde Close, London, has a number of previous convictions, including committing grievous bodily harm with intent and possession of heroin and cocaine with intent to supply. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison.