VIOLENCE in Dorset is spiralling because of drugs gangs who bring misery to our county, with a shooting and a mutilation among the horrors reported over the past year.

Gangs from big cities including London and Liverpool are pushing heroin and cocaine in towns including Bournemouth, Blandford and Weymouth.

According to reports, the spike has led to an outbreak of violent crime, including a rape, a shooting and even an incident in which a victim’s fingers were maimed.

Police routinely bring so-called ‘county lines’ dealers to court. However, top officers say they need more support from other agencies, including councils.

Dorset’s police and crime commissioner Martyn Underhill said: “Even as a former police officer, I am shocked by the violence that can accompany county lines.

“The gangs involved in this criminality often exploit children and vulnerable adults to move and store drugs and money – using intimidation, weapons and coercion to do so.

“County lines is a strong example of what Chief Constable James Vaughan and I refer to as an emerging threat.

“It is placing extra demand on policing at a time when public services are facing increasing financial challenges.”

County lines is a practice which sees gangs from large cities use dedicated phone lines to supply drugs to smaller towns. The issue is an increasing concern in the county, with many neighbourhood policing teams listing it as one of their top three priorities.

Mr Underhill said police cannot deal with the problem alone.

“If we’re to protect the most vulnerable from these gangs, it is vital that all agencies work together as policing can’t do this alone,” he said.

“With children and vulnerable adults being preyed upon, there is a clear role for social services, health and others with safeguarding responsibilities to make sure that we all treat the issue as a priority.

“In the middle of last year, I was concerned that although Dorset Police had identified the urgent need to tackle this area, some other partner agencies weren’t yet fully aware of the risks.

“However, I know that other agencies have had a closer look at this and so I am now more reassured.”

There is no time to spare when tackling county lines gangs, despite the force’s financial concerns and the impact of austerity, he said.

“County lines is an issue that cannot wait one or two years to be addressed while restructures take place – vulnerable people are being harmed now,” he said.

More than £23,000-worth of drugs and cash were seized during a single week last year as police launched a crackdown on drug dealers.

Thirty people were arrested across Dorset between October 8 and 14. One was a 14-year-old missing child. A further 39 people identified as being vulnerable were given ‘safe and well’ checks.