KEEP an eye out for signs of exploitation this summer holiday – children are being drawn into the drug gangs flooding Dorset with class As.

That's the message from police and council officials as part of a new campaign cracking down on 'county lines' dealing.

The practice 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.

According to reports, a spike in county lines dealing in Dorset 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.

Now a new campaign spearheaded by police, the NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group, Public Health Dorset, the Youth Offending Service and Dorset Council calls on residents to report any concerns they might have about a child during the school break.

Some of the signs of exploitation and county lines involvement are:

• A child or young person going missing from home or significant changes in emotional well-being

• A person meeting unfamiliar adults or a change to their behaviour

• The use of drugs and alcohol

• Acquiring money or expensive gifts they can’t account for

• Lone children from outside of the area

• Individuals with multiple mobile phones, tablets or ‘SIM cards’

• Young people with more money, expensive clothing, or accessories than they can account for

• Unknown or suspicious looking characters coming and going from a neighbour’s house

• Relationships with controlling or older individuals or associations with gangs

• Suspicion of self-harm, physical assault or unexplained injuries

Superintendent Caroline Naughton from Dorset Police said: “Keeping our communities safe from county lines is a priority for Dorset Police throughout the year – but it can be particularly challenging during the summer months due to the sheer numbers of people visiting our county during the holiday season.

"Dorset remains one of the safest places in the country to live, work and visit and we are asking the public to help us to keep it that way."

If they spot any of the signs of county lines, then we ask them to let us know by calling 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”

Sarah Parker, executive director for children at Dorset Council, said: “County lines can have a devastating impact on children and families’ lives, so we need to all stand together to try and stop it.

"It’s really important that people know what to look out for and who to contact, so agencies can act and protect children and young people from being exploited."